Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Recognizing the critical role that women and girls play in science, the United Nations declared February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We reached out to leading female scientists from across the world, and they have shared their advice for young girls considering a career in STEM, as well as their insights about the incredible journey that is scientific research.
Women are more suited to the STEM work environment than men – Gagandeep Kang
Women must not limit their aspirations - Shubha Tole
Post Doctoral Fellow, CSIR – Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology "Science fascinates me, it teaches me to live with a purpose and to be responsible to preserve the world around me. I feel fulfilled by understanding the science behind everything and am often amazed by exhilarating scientific discoveries.
Studying science enables us to live in harmony with nature, despite its unfathomable complexities. Women, being creators of life, have the intrinsic ability to appreciate science and lead the way. When it comes to making a career in science, the transition from a student into a professional is not smooth, especially owing to uncertainties in current programs for women in science. As women, we still get accommodated in science in a way that suits the system. We still make great academicians, scientists and take up leadership responsibilities. I sincerely hope that policy makers supporting gender equity in science will come up with interesting programs to create better options without gender bias. If we stress upon how hard it is to climb the uphill terrain, we should also emphasize upon how enjoyable and experiential it can be!"
Post Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) Science is a journey packed with excitement, adventures, successes and failures. Perseverance, hard work, determination and the ability to learn from the mistakes are some of the lifelong lessons that you learn over this journey. These are important assets for today’s young women, and they drive us to be self-reliant. The contributions that we make here will survive forever as inventions, as discoveries, as theories and as principles. Today, Science needs determined scientists, who are ready to care for the field and pursue it as a commitment.
My motto is - make science a part of your life, and make yourself a part of science!
Post Doctoral Fellow, Indian Institute of Science “When asked about why women should pursue science, the immediate response that came to my mind is ‘Why not?’
They should be considering it for the well-being of the whole community.
A system will be complete and progressive only with a comparable number of young women, as seen in most of the developed countries. Women possess a unique natural outlook and insights to offer upon scientific exposure and can mould a system to its finest level.
At the same time, young women are front-line workers when it comes to shaping future generations, and can inculcate scientific thought process to change the outlook of communities as a whole. With existing hurdles and problems, we are remarkably progressing towards this change and I am hopeful to witness it soon.”
Post Doctoral Fellow, Indian Institute of Science “Why women are good for science - With an intricately connected brain – intuitive, creative, good at processing large data and drawing meaningful conclusions – women are wired to be brilliant scientists. Adorned with nurturing compassion, women make excellent mentors.
Why science is good for women -
A career in science research offers work-life balance, flexible work timings and opportunities to travel with tiny tots (most conferences offer childcare support). Impressive funding opportunities support women to pursue higher studies in STEM and return to STEM research after career breaks.
Science is ready to receive us, are we willing to embrace it?”
Post Doctoral Fellow, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research "Since childhood, I have been fascinated with pursuing a career that would positively impact society and serve mankind. During my higher studies at the university, the need to prevent diseases, and design therapeutics with minimal side effects, motivated me to pursue my career as a molecular biologist. @iiscbangalore and @ncbs.blr gave me opportunities to hone my expertise and inspired me to continue my career in academia. I should say that the a career in research is challenging, especially for a woman, but if you have the passion and perseverance to continue, it's a highly satisfying career in the long run as every discovery helps to create a better world.”
Post Doctoral Fellow, Northwestern University "Why should young women pursue a career in science? Because science is really fun! It is exhilarating to find questions that are unanswered or unsolved mysteries in nature, and poke at them to make a small dent in the problem each time. Think of asking a question for which the answer can’t be found in books, or on Google! Being a scientist also gives you an analytical perspective in other areas of life – for example, building a mathematical model to help you pick apartments."
Post Doctoral Fellow, Indian Institute of Science "Women are naturally endowed with problem-solving skills, patience and perseverance which contributes effectively to unravelling the mechanisms of the mysterious universe. Scientific endeavours foster a woman’s overall growth and development and in turn, allow her to unleash her creative and imaginative potential necessary for scientific advancements and a healthy ecosystem."
DST Inspire Fellow, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research "To answer why women should pursue a career in science, I must ask - what stops women from doing anything they want? There are no 'male' and 'female' career paths, only mindsets that limit us. I chose science because of the freedom of thought and creativity. A scientific career teaches you to be analytical, patient, inquisitive and unbiased. It can propel young women to be independent, fearless to question and voice their opinion. You can be whoever you want. You can be a Rockstar, you can head a lab or a company, and still fix that leaky tap in the sink! The canvas is wide and you can be any character that you want to paint."
Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University "The so-called pandemic year has highlighted the need for evidence-based research and placed scientists at the forefront of discoveries and technological solutions to challenging societal problems. This is an exciting time to be a scientist and it has become even more relevant to engage and bring diverse teams on board to tackle the seen and the unseen problems of the world through a scientific lens.
Science is for anyone who is curious about solving complex problems through logic and data-driven reasoning and wishes to become independent in every sense of the word.
It is especially crucial to encourage and recruit more women in science to bring new perspectives and dialogues in the field, as well as to redress gender related biases."
Former Grad Student, Eisenstein Lab, Caltech "The pursuit of science develops in us a mind that is grounded in reason and knowledge. It instills in us a wonder and appreciation of the universe and this pursuit is our birthright. Women should take a deep interest in basic sciences and engineering through their school years into university as it will open opportunities to work in national laboratories, teach at universities, work for technology companies, and build international collaborations. I am hugely optimistic about women flourishing in science and engineering and achieving economic independence, raising healthier families, and thus, building a stronger nation and better world."
Post Doctoral Fellow, Caltech "Individuality, talent, and hard work, irrespective of gender or race, will always conquer conscious and unconscious biases in our societies. Diverse teams create the best solutions and the low participation rate of women in the sciences is holding back progress.
We need expert scientists and engineers from around the world to find solutions in critical areas, such as, renewable energy, climate crisis, pandemics, space exploration; so that humans can continue to thrive sustainably while expanding our understanding of the natural sciences. This journey is not only meaningful but also an enjoyable one and I especially invite young women to join me!"