Shubhangi Makkar, a physics student in Switzerland, was surprised to find very few women in her class.
As an school girl in the third grade in India I came across the biography of Kalpana Chawla, an American astronaut of Indian origin. While reading the book, I was inspired to make a career in science. However, there was also some uncertainty as there were very few women scientists to look up to. People around me, be it relatives or society, would always discourage me from venturing into science by putting forth various stereotypical opinions. When I grew older, however, I saw a shift in opinion in Indian society. Girls were encouraged to pursue science as people believed it to be a safer career option.
I graduated from an all-girls college in India where I was studying physics with about 100 other girls. Although, only 30% opted for higher studies, I am optimistic that this group will serve as role models and help increase the number of women in science many fold.
When I entered the lecture hall of my Swiss university, I saw a large gender gap the very first day. It exists in the elite co-educational institutes in India as well but coming from an all-girls college I wasn’t used to it. It was very disturbing and took me a whole month to adjust. It was not just the gender ratio, I overheard a few sexist remarks while walking down the corridors.
All this was highly discouraging for someone who is battling gender bias and proving that girls can actually be good at science and not just do science. It caused me to reflect that studying at an all-girls college in India may have helped build my confidence.
I agree that efforts are being made to encourage more women to apply for science studies and jobs. Universities, including mine, have special departments where one can report gender discrimination. These efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of female students and professors. However, this change is happening slowly.
A fellow classmate described the struggles of making a mark as a woman scientist quite well.
“A woman has to deal with being a woman first, along with the additional difficulties of becoming a scientist,” she said.
Take this tweet for an example, which portrays the importance of inclusion of women.
All in all, I sincerely urge all interested and talent women to move forward, be inspired by the work done by great scientists like Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Katherine Johnson, and try to emulate their feats to set an example for future generations. Be a part of this change which needs the support of all of society!
I would like to end this post with my favorite quote from Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
For more motivation, you can follow #womeninscience on Twitter. You can also commit to the #HeForShe movementexternal link aimed at taking action against gender discrimination globally. I would like to thank everyone who has helped make this blog possible and hope it inspires.
For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.
Hi! My name is Shubhangi. I moved to Switzerland last September to pursue my Masters in Physics at ETH Zürichexternal link. Apart from studying the laws of nature, I enjoy capturing the small, colourful moments of life. My passions are travel and photography.
If you're new to Switzerland, or have plans to study here, or want to follow my journey then stay tuned!end of infobox