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Women in Science: An Insider – Outsider Perspective

On the Occasion of Women In Science Day, watch Dr. Nimita Pandey and Dr. Zill-e-Anam in candid conversation sharing their thoughts on ‘Women in Science in India’. (~ 8 mins)


Nimita: Hello everyone, hope you all are keeping well. So winter is settling, valentine’s day is round the corner and the sense of warmth, love and belongingness is in the air. And to cherish a different kind of love and compassion, today Zille and I thought to have a late evening conversation over coffee – What could be a better day to talk about our thoughts on women in Science, than today – The #WomenInScience Day!

So Zille, how was your day? It’s been a long time since we met. Thanks but no thanks to COVID, we have devised new ways to meet and see each other.

Zille: I had a fantastic day, Nimita! reading social media posts, reflecting on articles, stories, attending webinars on Women in Science, and recapitulating women in science who have personally inspired me through their resilience and grit.

Nimita: What a beautiful day indeed! I began my day flipping through Lilavati’s Daughters – A curated compilation of biographical and autobiographical sketches of about one hundred women scientists from India. I must confess, reading the saga of their passion for science, their struggles, tribulations and successes is very inspirational! Knowing them through these writings has motivated me to work on Gender and Science Policy.

Zille: It’s a great compilation. However, I feel the challenges of women in science in the 21st century are unique and complex. In no way I am undermining the issues and challenges of the older generation and frankly speaking, as an early career scientist, I relate to some of the struggles which exist since time immemorial, but there are problems which have emerged with time and are left unresolved.

Nimita: Indeed. Globalisation, Brain Circulation, the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, transformations in socio-economic and institutional settings, at national, regional levels have impacted lives of women in Science. It is great to see that the insiders and outsiders of science have become more vocal about Gender related issues – be it access to resources, sexuality, intersectionality and ableism. As a science policy researcher I feel we are living in exciting times!

Zille: Yes, A lot is happening across the globe and in India in relation to promoting women in Science. While COVID19 overburdened women scientists to manage work-life balance, it opened up new vistas for awareness, sensitisation, mentorship and networking particularly through online platforms. Government and non-government organisations have come up with innovative interventions in this regard.

Nimita: It’s amazing Zille! Being engaged in the STI policy process of India, there is a sense of elation and optimism to see how the national policy is recognising and acknowledging gender equity and inclusion in Science. Issues related to career break, ageism, dual recruitments, gender harassments are given serious consideration. I am very excited to see how Athena Swan model will be subsumed in the Indian ecosystem. Will it not be satisfying to see institutions being ranked on their inclusive character? I won’t hesitate to say that such rankings shall be the parameters for funding institutions.

Zille: I can relate to your excitement, Nimita. The implementation of this policy will really be a dictating factor and a game changer. Nonetheless, all these interventions are happening in silos. We need concerted and synergised efforts to bring stakeholders from different strata, institutions and communities to bridge gaps, involve rural and tribal communities and the informal sector, bring cultural shifts and institutional transformations for participation, promotion and retention of women in science.

Nimita: Certainly Zille, I agree. While we have come a long way in bringing women close to Science, we need more and more women in science. It’s time to go beyond Leelavati’s daughters and bring in narratives of Leelavati’s granddaughters and great granddaughters – their struggles, experiences and accomplishments. I wish we could keep this conversation on for hours. But I am starving and don’t want to stand between you and your dinner as well!

Zille: The feeling is mutual, Nimita. Lets catch up soon! On behalf of SPF, we wish all our viewers a wonderful and cheerful day ahead. Let us embrace and work towards promoting women in Science. Take care and stay safe!


[Disclaimer: Viewers may find slight differences in the written and recorded versions. The script does not capture the tone, expressions and articulation of the speakers. However, it covers the essence of the conversation.]


About the author

Nimita Pandey

Nimita Pandey

Nimita is a Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Fellow at the Department of Science & Technology – Centre for Policy Research, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. She is hosted jointly at Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), Government of India and UNESCO New Delhi cluster office. A master’s in Business Administration, she holds a Ph.D. in Science Policy from the Center for Studies in Science Policy (CSSP), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

She has been a part of various projects in the area of Science Policy, Technology Foresight, Responsible Research and Innovation, Science Diplomacy supported by national and international organizations, including DST, FAO, European Commission, Australian National University, and others. Some of her associations include Member, Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation, and Competence Building Systems (GLOBELICS); Associate Member, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) and Associate Editor, Science Diplomacy Review.

Her research interests include Gender and Science, STI for sustainable development, Globalisation of Innovation, Governance of Emerging Technologies, Biotechnology clusters, and Biodiversity, to name a few. She has published on related topics and participated in many conferences and workshops, of national and global repute.

About the author



Zill-e-Anam is currently pursuing PhD in Directed Evolution and Codon Shuffling for the treatment of Malaria from Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She loves to juggle between pipettes, proteins, and laptop keypad. When she is not on her lab workbench, she is experimenting with public engagement platforms like science communication and science policy. She is also an avid traveler.

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