Recently, a leading space scientist, Rita Schulz, accused the European Space Agency of not promoting women scientists. Let’s first of all take a moment to realise that this is an institute that’s the epitome of excellence in a particular field.
Rita said she had been “shafted” by the management when she was dropped from the historic Rosetta comet-chasing mission project six months before its culmination, as reported The Guardian.
She was the first and the only female scientist on the team and has expressed her disapproval of the way the agency has been working. “This is something that is not good at ESA,” she said, adding, “Women are never promoted. I have to say I believe this is a problem.” (as reported by The Guardian).
Having worked on the project for 20 years amongst a team of men, Rita claims that no other female scientist was hired. Even after being the only woman leader on an important mission, Rita was replaced by project scientist, Matt Taylor, in 2013.
A woman always has to work harder than a man to reach the same place. It is the harsh truth of life, which is what women around the world are fighting against. Rita added, “I make sure in meetings that I don’t get too excited. If a man gets excited, he’s determined. If a woman does, she’s emotional or hysterical.”
You’d think a person in such an esteemed organisation would not feel the heat of inequality, but this only leads to prove that such behaviour is spread across the world. Women in power are perceived a certain way that may not always fit well with society.
In India, women account for only 20% of the space agency’s total workforce. 14.3% of science researchers in India are women, according to World Economic Forum report. A report by The Association of Academics and Societies of Sciences in Asia revealed that 25-30% of science PhDs are women.
The Mangalyaan programme, India’s maiden mission to the Red Planet, was successfully launched in September 2014 and there was not a single woman in the team of 11 members who were given credit for the success of the mission. Not to question the men’s work, but where are the women scientists? Are they promoted at all? Or do they sit behind desks and get no recognition for their work?
Even though there is an increase in the number of women studying science, taking it up as a serious career is still a goal that needs to be achieved. Opportunities for women are increasing, women are stepping out of their stereotypical roles and making a difference, but is it enough? Are we encouraging females enough to delve into the world of science and space?
Feature Image Courtesy: Vogue India