BACK INTO THE FOLD
Careers 360|September 2020
How a government programme is helping women in science and tech who have faced a career break get back on track.
Pritha Roy Choudhury

Mondays are immensely hectic for Jhansi Lakshmi. She wakes up as early as 3 am in the morning and at 6 am, boards the Ispat Express at Howrah, in Kolkata, for Kharagpur. She must reach the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT Kharagpur) on time.

It takes extraordinary commitment but Lakshmi, 41, is working on a postdoctoral project on herbal wound dressing. “I am working on this product which will not only be patient-friendly but also cost-effective,” she said.

Lakshmi, originally from Hyderabad, always dreamt of becoming a scientist. But her plans were derailed after she married and her family responsibilities took priority. A newspaper advertisement by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) that she spotted quite by accident gave her hope. “I had a career-break of seven years after I got married and wanted to make a comeback,” she explained.

A way back in is exactly what the DST’s Project KIRAN – Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing – is for women scientists who’ve had a career break. Involving a bridge course and training, the Women Scientist Scheme under Project KIRAN has helped over 1,300 women scholars get back on track.

Lakshmi was looking for a technology platform between pharmacy and healthcare and she found it at IIT Kharagpur with the help of the project.

Women in science

Project KIRAN was started in 2014 by the DST to bring together all its programmes targeting women on one platform. One part of it provides opportunities to women postgraduates in science or technology whose careers were interrupted by family or financial reasons. While some prefer to work in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) only and leave to work in that domain a year later, others stay on for further research in science.

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