The government has identified 11 twentieth century women scientists in whose honor it will set up Chairs across the country. These Indian women scientists hail from such diverse fields as cytogenetics, organic chemistry, mathematics, and social sciences. The Chairs will be occupied only by eminent women scientists, who will receive funding of up to Rs 1 crore.
The announcement was made by Women & Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on the National Science Day to “not only honor & recognize Indian women scientists’ contribution to the field of Science but also inspire women & encourage greater participation of young girls…” The Chairs will be set up for five years in science and research establishments across the country and their tenure may be extended depending on the research. The surprise announcement was a result of deliberations between the Ministries of Science & Technology and Women & Child Development.
The women being honored include: Archana Sharma (1932-2008), cytogeneticist; Janaki Ammal (1897-1984), botanist; Darshan Ranganathan (1941-2001), organic chemistry; Asima Chatterjee (1917-2006), chemist; Kadambini Ganguly (1861-1923), doctor; Iravati Karve (1905-1970), anthropologist; Anna Mani (1918-2001), meteorologist; Rajeshwari Chatterjee (1922-2010), engineering; Raman Parimala (1948), mathematics; Bibha Chowdhuri (1913-1991), physicist; and Kamal Ranadive (1917-2001), biomedical research.
Only a few Indians possibly remember these women scientists, though they were trail blazers in their respective fields of science and research at a time when the country was still witnessing conflict between modern and traditional thinking. According to Unesco, fewer than 30 per cent of the world’s researchers are women. Studies say that women face discrimination of various kinds during their careers, though substantive data do not exist to show the extent of disparities.
The National Task Force on Women in Science says that only 15 per cent of the research and development workforce are women. Despite their fewer numbers, Indian women scientists had a golden run when they found themselves splashed across the international media after the nation put a satellite to Mars. The famed Mangalyaan project had many women scientists as part of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) team. What catapulted the ISRO women to international stardom was a photograph that had women wearing colorful saris with flowers in their hair—a striking image bringing that yoked science and tradition..