The 11th of February 2016 was the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared by the UN in order to promote and encourage a larger number of women to take on careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM fields).
The best way to highlight and bring this problem into perspective is to share some statistics; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, women in fields commonly referred to as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) made up 7 percent of that workforce in 1970, a figure that had jumped to 23 percent by 1990. But the rise essentially stopped there. Two decades later, in 2011, women made up 26 percent of the science workforce. At present, the number of women in research specifically, is only 28 percent of the workforce.
These numbers are largely due to the existence of sexism, lack of equal educational opportunities, prejudice and societal limitations, among other factors. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham decided to play its part in help celebrating this day and bring attention to this issue. A program was conducted in the afternoon at the Amrita School of Biotechnology (where unlike in many other institutions the ratio is in favour of the girls). The program began with the problems faced by women being highlighted, along with examples of various women who have overcome these problems to become successes in their respective fields. These examples included Marie Curie, the first woman Nobel Prize winner and the first person to win the prize twice, as well as Rosalind Franklin and Ada Lovelace.
This was followed by a quiz styled on the game show Jeopardy, where questions were on the basis of women in the scientific community and their achievements. The quiz had a special round that included questions about the scientific achievements of the women who are a part of Amrita School of Biotechnology as well.
The hour long session also had a few short inspirational videos showcasing women in science, the difficulties they faced and their eventual rise in their respective fields. The day proved to be quite eye opening for many among the audience, including both men and women, as to the realities and battles that most women and girls in science have to wage to achieve their dreams.
Magician Mr. Pramod Kerala is famous for his fire escape magic performance with the highest number of obstacles. Mr. Pramod is also a contestant in Ugram Ujjwalam, a talent show, aired on a television channel, Mazhavil Manorama. He has performed spectacular stunts like driving during rush hour traffic, blindfold AND with both his hands tied to the steering wheel for 1Km! Mr. Pramod was kind enough to entertain the students and staff of Amrita School of Biotechnology as a part of celebrating the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science.