Young Women scientists’ workshop
Workshop Coordinator - Shamima K Choudhury, Professor, Department of Physics, University of Dhaka
An international workshop on “Mentor- Mentee” program was organized by Bangladesh Academy of Sciences on 24-25 March 2012 at NMST Auditorium, Agargaon, Dhaka. The theme of the workshop was Challenges of Young Women Scientists in New and Emerging Sciences.
A group of 50 young women scientists (age <40 years) were selected="selected" from various public & private universities and research organizations from all over the country to be “Mentee”.
The “Mentors” were renowned scientists from home and abroad. Prof. Farida Habib Shah, TWAS fellow, from Malaysia; Prof. Sunethra Atukorala from Sri Lanka ; Prof. Nilam Shrestha and Dr. Sanju Shrestha from Nepal were the delegates from abroad. Prof. Dr. Hazera Mahtab of BIRDEM, Prof. Sultana Shafee, Prof. Z N Tahmida Begum, Prof. Dr. Fauzia Moslem, Prof. Haseena Khan, Prof. Shahida Rafique and Prof. Zeba Islam Seraj were among the mentors along with the foreign delegates and the coordinator. Prof. Shamima K Choudhury of Dhaka University was the proposer and coordinator of the workshop.
The Honble State Minister for Science and Technology, architect Yafes Osman was the Chief Guest in the inaugural session of this workshop and Prof. M Shamsher Ali presided over the function. The main aim of this workshop was to develop a sustained relationship between experienced women scientists who give advice as mentors to less-experienced young women scientists i.e. mentees. There were panel discussions in themes such as Successes and barriers for women scientists in pursuing scientific dreams and Public communication for women in science. The panellists stressed the role of media in promoting science to the public as the number of science graduates are alarmingly dropping in last couple years as compared to business studies.
Also in how to Balance your Life in pursuing career and looking after family, eminent scientist Prof. Dr. Hazera Mahtab spoke about her balance in her career, family life and success. How to become an entrepreneur in Managing Research & Development -potential for commercialization was also discussed by eminent and established business persons. Lastly group discussions in Issues related to career development, Issues relating to the setting up of mentor-mentee and Issues relating to what women scientists can do for other grassroots in achieving MDG goals were done in 5 different groups. The Mentors helped them and mentees were asked to present answers to “What challenges do you feel in the given issue? And how do you think they can be addressed?”
The interaction between the mentors and the mentees were fruitful and this kind of workshop is the first of its kind in our country to promote the young scientists. Prof. Farida Habib Shah, Vice-President of Organization of Women in Science in Developing World (OWSD) thinks that this mentor-mentee workshop can be a role model for other developing countries also us.
Pic-1: The foreign delegates and the coordinators of the mentor-mentee workshop
Pic-2: The participant “mentees” and the “mentors” of the workshop.
Young Women Scientists' ′Mentor-Mentee’ Workshop,
Dhaka 24-25 March 2012
- Financial support
1. Research grant- source: Govt., Private or corporate sector, International
2. Incentives for achievements
3. Awards for young scientists
- Flexible age and time schedule
1. Increase age limit to 45 for young women scientists
2. Allow when possible work from home / flexi time.
3. Opportunities for maternity and paternity leave and leave (half paid or unpaid) as required for child raising. Government has raised maternity leave to six months. This should be followed in private organizations as well.
4. Break in career taken for child care or family building not to be considered as a discredit or discontinuity of job. Need to help to come back into research, new techniques without losing seniority.
- Support system
1. Day care centre for children should be established at every institute where women scientists are working.
- Security for researchers/scientists
1. Transport support for work at late hours
2. Suitable accommodation for women scientists for field based data collection
3. Security at lab during and after office hours
4. Toilet facilities for women especially at outreach areas
- Capacity building
1. Funded training/ scholarship opportunities abroad with support from Govt., academy and institution
2. Quality training opportunities locally for those who are unable to go abroad for family reasons including online education supported by academy/ Govt.
3. Training for fund proposal writing, report writing and communication with a special emphasis in presentation skills development.
4. Mentor-mentee networking.
5. Regular workshops both specialty based and leadership oriented.
6. Peer mentoring through blogs/ websites/ direct communication can be an effective way of self development and problem solving.
7. Curriculum to include science communication at college and university levels.
- Change of mindset in the society
1. Media can play a significant role in promoting the visibility and prestige of female researchers
2. Mass education patronized by Academy to bring attitudinal changes in the society
3. Strong policies to abolish discrimination against women recruitment and promotion
4. recognizing women contribution at home in developing society
5. Women have to learn to be a friend of another woman
6. Self motivation and self-promotion
- Role of Academy
1. Inclusion as young scientists as associate fellows in the BAS
2. Increase number of women Fellows in Academy of Science : Increase awareness of opportunities to be nominated for these position
3. Patronization of young women scientists by national Academy to participate in international events of the IAP, ICSU etc.
4. Arranging nationwide talent search competitions for young woman scientists.
5. Encourage and organizing study tours for school students to the Science Museum by BAS
- School based programs organized especially by BAS
1. Activities like science fairs, art competitions and science projects
2. Highlighting role models of the country by arranging visits by women scientists to schools
3. Incentive for girls with special aptitude in Math or other science subjects in the form of scholarships, travel grants or invitation to programs of interest.
2. International / regional women scientists network
3. Common platform for young scientists
4. Expansion of quota system to secure women involvements in every sector of job and education.
5. Counseling services for young women scientists
6. Career development
7. Personal life balance
- Strong government policies for women empowerment.