Underrepresentation of women in various field is a common phenomenon worldwide. In science, we have only about 30 per cent of women researchers around the world. Appointment of Dr. Soumya Swaminathan as the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR) is seen as a milestone for women in leadership role in our country. She is the second women scientist to head the ICMR, India’s premiere agency for biomedical research in a century. Her appointment came as a respite for aspiring women scientist looking forward to make exceptional contribution to the field of science midst societal barrier.
In her interview to Nature India, she raised concern over the apparent gender biases towards woman in the field of science, however being optimistic she said, “I am confident that in the future, there will be more women in leadership positions in science. However I hope I am not judged differently because I am a woman- the yardstick should be the same for all scientist”. Currently, Dr Swaminathan is the only women leading any public science agency in the country.
Swaminathan, who will also be the Secretary of the Department of Health Research has made major contribution in tuberculosis research as Director at National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai.
In her 5 year roadmap to develop IMCR she aims to,
- Make IMCR more dynamic while responding to urgent public health needs.
- Provide evidence based advice to the Ministry of Health to help them promulgate welfare policies.
- Improve infrastructure and make health care affordable in India.
Although, vulnerability to diseases like TB, malaria, Dengue and chikungunya due to poor healthcare and sanitation facilities in rural areas remains a major challenge. Swaminathan aims to bridge the gap between academia and industrial needs through data compiled by the Health Ministry.
She also has an MD in paediatrics from All India institute of Medical Science, Delhi and has specialised in paediatric pulmonology. She completed her graduation from the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune.
With women as a leader, one can perhaps expect policies and schemes to be more sensitive and emphatic towards women in our country.
Earlier in 1992 Dr. Gowdagere Satyavati was the first women scientist to head IMCR.
Photo Credit: thehindu.com