BENGALURU: Research and development (R&D) activity in India’s private sector has a larger proportion of women compared to government-supported agencies, even as men continue to overwhelmingly dominate the sector.
At least seven out of every 10 women employed by private R&D facilities are involved in research, whereas not even half of the female staff in government-aided scientific agencies have the same role, according to the latest edition of Science and Technology Indicators (STI-2019-20) compiled by the Government of India’s department of science and technology that was released this month. The employment data is for 2017-18.
Only public units in the industrial sector compare well with private R&D facilities. The overall number of women on the rolls at such units is 10 times lesser compared to private R&D facilities. Percentage of women in other central and state government departments, and scientific and industrial research organisations pales in comparison with the private sector.
Of the 20,000-plus women employed in private R&D companies, more than 15,000 were involved in research activities, 2,800 and 2,500 were in auxiliary or administrative activities. In major scientific agencies funded by the government, there are more than 23,000 women employed but only 10,000 worked directly in R&D.
“This has been the case for a while now. Although there is a slight increase in women in academia with the number of assistant professors having increased, the divide between academic and research institutions means that not enough women are in R&D,” said Rohini Godbole, a senior physicist who has chaired a panel on women in S&T.
Another scientist working with the government on the new S&T policy said, “You will see something good on this in the coming policy.”
Also, the private sector has outpaced public R&D investment over the years although the latter has put in more money in absolute terms. The investment data is up to 2018-19.
While R&D investment by the government was about 120% more than the private sector in 2004-05, the gap has reduced to 40% by 2018-19.
Compared to the 300% jump in public investment on R&D from 2004-05 to 2018-19, private sector investment spiked 600%. In 2018-19, of the Rs 1.2 lakh crore investment in R&D, private investment was Rs 51,115 crore and that of the government Rs 72,732 crore.
Chairman of Aarin Capital Partners, TV Mohandas Pai said the reason for a higher percentage of women in the private sector being in R&D is because of massive increase, which government research units are yet to do.
“I’m glad we are discussing investment. For some reason, people in this country think the private sector does not invest in research, which is not correct. As companies make more money, they become bigger and compete more. At this stage, they invest more in R&D as they need product information. This is happening in a big way in pharma and IT now, and we will see this increase,” Pai said.