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How Lancet is correcting gender imbalance in STEM research

The Financial Express
 Lancet, gender imbalance, STEM research, financial express editorial, financial express, All India Higher Education Survey, AISHE, STEM field, sexual harrassment, science research 

Given the systemic gender bias in STEM research, The Lancet group of journals announced a Diversity Pledge and a new 'No All-Male Panel'—or 'manel'—policy. The move aims to increase the representation of women, people of colour, and colleagues from the Global South among the journal group's editorial boards/advisors, peer reviewers, and authors. Further, in its 'manel' policy, The Lancet states that its editors shall "not serve as panelists at a public conference or event where there are no women on the panel," and that, for events organised or planned by The Lancet, the aim, going beyond merely having female moderators, is for at least half the panel to be constituted of female speakers.

According to a UNESCO report, as of 2015, only 28.8% of STEM researchers globally, and 13.9% in India were women. Cultural stereotypes pose severe barriers for women's entry into the sciences—for instance, only 29% of female students in India are enrolled in a BTech course, as per the All India Higher Education Survey (AISHE) 2017-18. Challenges abound in retaining women in science research too.

The same report found that only 6% of the women enrolled in these courses opt for a PhD—reasons like marriage and maternity often cut short their educational pursuit. Gender disparity is the highest in fields like Computer Science or Physics while it is least in the life sciences and medicine. With the World Economic Forum estimating that approximately 90% of future jobs will require some level of information and communication technology skill, and the fastest growth in jobs being in the STEM fields, continued exclusion of women from science is unacceptable and economically unsound. Not only do efforts need to be made to attract more female talent to the sciences but also workplace policies—on pay, sexual harrassment, flexxi-schedules for working mothers—need to be modified to encourage retention of female science professionals.