08 Mar 2013, Vipul Murarka, BioSpectrum
A survey conducted by popular social networking site LinkedIn to mark the International Women's Week this year says that more women want work-life balance than higher salaries at workplace. Another finding, MasterCard's latest Index of Women's Advancement, says women still face barriers to leadership positions in the government and private sector across the Asia Pacific region.
New Zealand ranked first (77.8 Index Score), followed by Australia (76), the Philippines (70.5), Singapore (67.5) and Taiwan (64.7). At the other end of spectrum, India (38), Japan (48.1) and Korea (49.7) had Index scores indicating that much more can be done to achieve gender parity in these countries. The scores were indexed to 100 indicate how close or how far women in each market are to achieving socio-economic parity with men.
So where do women in bioscience stand in the Asia Pacific region? BioSpectrum Asia's gender parity survey, conducted online for over a week, reveals the mindset of male and female employees working in this industry in the APAC region. More than 73 percent of the respondents, from various Asia Pacific countries, said there was no discrimination in the bioscience industry.
Of the total number of respondents, 47.7 percent were women. While this paints a positive picture of the industry, the fact remains that the number of women employed in the field of science and technology, which includes biosciences, is alarmingly low in the world's leading economies.
A recent survey conducted by Elseiver highlights that the number of women in the science, technology and innovation fields is actually on the decline in many countries, including the US. The survey picture is even more gloomy for India where less than 15 percent women have access to their own bank accounts, and females hold less than a third of available administrative and managerial positions.
The survey says while India's enabling policy environment, which has been in place for many years, is very positive, implementation and funding needs to increase substantially before women can equally benefit from the innovation advantage. It also states that although female enrollments in bio and health sciences in India are very high, at 80 percent, number of women at the top-level position is very low in the bioscience field.
BioSpectrum Asia survey, which focuses on the perception of gender parity in the industry, reveals that fewer than 20 percent respondents feel growth opportunities favor men more than women in their companies. Also, 86 percent believe that their companies treat men and women equally in terms of equal pay and benefits in line with qualifications and experience. However, 34 percent of the respondents admit to having faced stunted career growth or heard about cases where women have suffered the same despite having the same qualifications and experience as their male peers.
Among the examples cited for gender discrimination in the field were male bosses bullying young female colleagues; discriminatory application of rules; qualified candidate not selected in the final interview as the company did not have creche facility and did not want to add one; and women employees being treated as eye candy. Some of the respondents even said women are considered more stable as they do not demand salary hikes because income for them is more like an additive once they are married.
One of the female respondents also recalled that she was not allowed to be the first author on an important discovery, even though it was her idea. "I was told that I was a female and would leave and have children," she said. Meanwhile, over 92 percent of the respondents said the HR policies in their respective organizations were gender neutral.
Among the perks counted for females at workplace in the industry were maternal leave (for about 3 months), which some said was not sufficient, childcare benefits, flexible work timings, protection from harrassment, special holiday for nursing baby, drop facility if working late, special medical coverage for new moms and hotline for reporting gender bias. Preference for a particular gender is sometimes shown while hiring for certain job roles, felt 21 percent of the respondents. Such jobs were listed as clerical work, jobs that require a lot of traveling, receptionist, human resource executives, roles inside bioanalytical labs, assistants and manufacturing.