In what could be called a potential waste of human talent, there are still few women at higher levels in the field of science. In tune with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, Pledge for Parity, we scouted for a few young women who have managed to break many shackles and have handled rigorous scientific research as well as their families. We congratulate these women and hope their stories inspire more women to break the glass ceiling.
RAMIE H BEGUM
Ramie H Begum is Assistant Professor, Dept. of Life Sciences & Bioinformatics, Assam University Diphu Campus and Visiting Assistant Professor, Dept of Medical microbiology and Immunology, University of California, Davis, California, USA. Her research interest lies in Molecular Epidemiology and she did her post doctoral studies in the Dept of Medical microbiology and Immunology, University of California.
She agrees that few women take up sciences as Science is widely perceived as tougher subject than humanities and more of ‘manly’ subject. Scientific research is a 24X7 job and needs more dedication and time. Women have other imperative responsibilities like family so cannot concentrate just on studies. Women in science are generally viewed as aggressive, over ambitious, inflexible, rebellious and not fitting the societal norms of ideal woman who can slip into multiple roles of ‘good’ daughter–in law/ mother/ wife etc.
“It’s a Man’s World out there. Competition is extremely tough,” she rues. Few women get into and even fewer get to the top. Then they compete and fight for their right place against hundreds of men. After getting the place they have to be in constant loggerheads with the men colleagues for promotions, salary raise and career development. There is almost non-existing support within the work place. Often many are victims of petty office politics. The few successful women are considered aggressive. Due to small number of women in work place there is often a threat of gender and sexual harassments. The threat is even more for women who pursue higher research under male supervisors.
However, her research does not affect her family. She has given herself a two-year self-imposed break from Science to enjoy her regular life and her new role of mother. “Right now my research has taken a back seat but I am getting back to it very soon. I believe that all women are very good at managing and balancing. With an understanding, helpful and supportive family we can juggle all roles very efficiently. It also helps if the spouse is also in the field of research as well,” she points out.
Ramie is ambitious. She wants to be a well-recognized name in her field of research. She wants to use her scientific knowledge and expertise to develop simple technologies which can help the poor tribal population of NE India, especially women to generate household income, improve standard of living, develop affordable medicines, and reduce spread of diseases.
Nirmali Gogoi has her priorities clear. When she is not busy handling her two kids, she is seen in the laboratory working on her area of research, Environmental Plant abiotic stress. She feels that women face numerous challenges to pursue any career, more so in science.
In order to pursue higher studies in science women have to spend sufficient time in labs, away from their home and sometimes even from their hometown – which is often not possible because of loaded family liabilities. A strong family support is imperative, which, she feels is hard to come by. Moreover, constraints such as leave during maternity and childcare demands a lot of mental strength and sufficient time to pursue a career like scientific research which women seldom opt for. It was not so easy for her to manage both home and career like any other women but due to constant family care and support, she managed.
In the future, she plans to learn more about her area of research and pursue higher studies. Presently, she is working as Assistant Professor in the department of Environmental Science, Tezpur University, Assam. With her firm grit and determination, we will definitely hear more from Gogoi in the future.
This young researcher and a mother of two, Rebecca has worked on the study of lichen diversity and their application in pollution monitoring. According to her, family support is the greatest challenge a woman had to face while pursuing higher studies. She considers herself fortunate that she got a supportive family.
Daughter of a cultivator from Assam’s Udalguri district, she also had to face financial constraints as well. She feels that in rural societies, preference is given to the male child when it comes to higher studies.
And her research work entailed lot of travelling and exploring unknown places, forest areas, river islands. She wants to be employed in an institution where she can continue her research on lichens. Presently, she is working as an Assistant Professor in Udalguri college, Udalguri.
She too, had to juggle home and work. Being a mother of two children, she sometimes had to carry them along in her fieldwork. And at one time she was away from home for about three months leaving behind my 16 month-old child. Inspite of all these hurdles she believes where there is a will there is a way.