Astronomy is no more a male bastion

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Thursday, 28 February 2019

On Science Day, ST speaks to women scientists working in field of astronomy

PUNE: The way we look at stars might have been influenced by some women scholars, but we do not know their names. Thankfully, things are changing slowly, though worldwide only 15 per cent of women study astronomy.

Speaking exclusively to Sakal Times, women scientists from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) said, “In India, we need a cultural shift to see more women in astronomy. In general, the number of women studying science too is less in India, as compared to developed countries.”

“If we look at women carrying out doctoral research, it is merely 40 per cent. Of these,  women opting for academia stands at just 13 per cent,” said Manas Devi. She further said, “Whenever a woman is at the threshold of 30s, people ask her when she would settle down, meaning when she would get married.”

“Things cannot change. Women are not holding higher posts such as the secretary at the DST or other such ministries in our country. We have schemes to produce scientists, but retaining them is a big question,” she added. 

Echoing her views, Avyarthana Ghosh said, “We need more women administrators and law makers, who can bring in some change.” 

Avyarthana Ghosh is currently working on the Aditya Mission project of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

She said, “In one of the initial meetings, I was the only lady among a group of 13 men. Among these 13, a few were foreign delegates and they appreciated the fact that a woman was also part of the team.”

Anupreeta More said that women are probably in favour of gender balance and getting support (in any form - financial, human resources, conducive and positive environment) to raise children while continuing their research.

“It is always inspiring to see women taking up challenging tasks, authoritative positions, high responsibilities and intellectual jobs. We need more such women. To make this happen, we need young girls to be encouraged and supported by their families and the system,” More added. 

Sayali Avachat said though this field is male-dominated, women are now getting their due place. Pranoti Panchbhai said, “Many women shy away from taking up astronomy because of less awareness. Especially girls from smaller cities or rural backgrounds do not have exposure. Thus, they lag behind. Universities, research institutes should have courses in astrophysics, which will help many to take it up.”

Sonali Thorve is of the same opinion. Nevertheless, all the women scientists agreed that there was non-cooperation or discrimination, which is seen in every field. 

But with very less awareness, many women think twice before taking up astronomy as a full-time career. 

The scientists thanked their families. They said it was because of their families that they could pursue their career in astronomy.

Pranoti answers various questions related to astronomy and science through Quora, Facebook and email. She is in touch with girls, especially from Kolhapur and Nashik regions. Anupreeta is active in the Citizen Science Forum for school and college students and interacts with them.

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