Context: The new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy is currently being drafted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST)
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- Its aim will be to increase the participation of women in science.
- The DST will incorporate a system of grading institutes depending on the enrolment of women and the advancement of the careers of women faculty and scientists.
What is Athena SWAN?
- The Athena SWAN Charter: It is an evaluation and accreditation programme in the UK enhancing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
- Function:Participating research organisations and academic institutions are required to analyse data on gender equity and develop action plans for improvement. The programme recognises such efforts with bronze, silver or gold accreditation.
- Institutions that sign up commit to:
- Addressing unequal gender representation.
- Tackling the gender pay gap.
- Removing the obstacles faced by women in career development and progression.
- Discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
- Gender balance of committees and zero tolerance for bullying and sexual harassment.
How well has it worked?
- In 2019, a report by Ortus Economic Research:In partnership with Loughborough University found that 93% of participants believed the programme had a positive impact on gender issues.
- 78% said it had impacted equality and diversity issues positively, and 78% noted a positive impact on the career progression of women.
- A study in BMJ: It found that in the five-year period since the scheme was started, participating institutions had a higher number of female leaders than non-Athena institutions, and gender diversity in leadership positions also improved.
Why does India need such a programme?
- GATI: In India, it will be called GATI (Gender Advancement through Transforming Institutions). India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report.
- According to DST figures: In 2015-16, the share of women involved in scientific research and development was 14.71%.
- The DST has also found that women are either not promoted, or very often drop out mid-career to attend to their families.
What are the challenges ahead?
- Institutions lack control:To get as many institutions as possible to sign up, the DST will need to manoeuvre around government red tape as most universities, barring the IITs and NITs, are run and funded by the government as well.
- This means that these institutions don’t have direct control over institutional policies, recruitment and promotions.
What are the steps of DST towards ensuring gender equity?
- Gender equity:The DST has tied up with National Assessment and Accreditation Council, under the UGC, aiming to push gender equity through them.
- Gender sensitisation: The DST plans to run intensive gender sensitisation programmes, especially for the top leadership of institutions, and work within existing rules such as pushing for women members on selection committees during recruitment processes.
- Policy changes: In the future, the DST is likely to consider policy changes such as those brought about in the UK providing financial incentives through grants to institutes.
- For the pilot, 25 institutes will be shortlisted to carry out self-assessment on gender equity in their departments. The British Council is assisting the DST and will facilitate collaboration between selected institutions under GATI with Athena SWAN-accredited institutions in the UK, with each institute here having a partner institute in the UK for guidance.