WEST : Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology; Launching of a new I-STEM initiative

New Delhi: Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WEST), a new I-STEM (Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map) initiative called “Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WEST)” was launched by Dr. Parvinder Maini, Scientific Secretary, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India on 5th September 2022. The WEST programme will cater to women with a STEM background and empower them to contribute to the science, technology, and innovation ecosystem. I-STEM is a national web portal for sharing research equipment/facilities and is the umbrella under which many programmes for promoting collaborations in R&D and technological innovation among and between academia and industry, especially startups, are underway.

Through the WEST initiative, I-STEM shall provide a separate platform to scientifically inclined women researchers, scientists, and technologists for pursuing research in basic or applied sciences in frontier areas of science and engineering. Women may join the WEST program and explore opportunities to become stakeholders in various domains and pursue careers in R&D at various levels: technicians, technologists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Opportunities range from operating scientific equipment and maintaining them, to designing and manufacturing them.

The Skill Development programmes under the WEST initiative will provide training for women with S&T backgrounds to brush up on their abilities and become engaged “in the field” as lab technicians and maintenance engineers, filling crucial gaps in the R&D infrastructure of the country. This initiative will also help bring women back into S&T domains after a career break.

With this experience, women can become entrepreneurs to serve as consultants for the operation and maintenance of sophisticated equipment/instruments through the I-STEM platform. This would go a long way towards filling a “skills gap”, and putting publicly-funded equipment to good use.

Under the WEST initiative, the current support being provided to S&T startups by women entrepreneurs by I-STEM will be enhanced. The access to R&D facilities and R&D software platforms (COMSOL, MATLAB, LABVIEW, AUTOCAD) available through the I-STEM portal will form a strong support network for women entrepreneurs in S&T.

I-STEM shall provide a platform/forum for women researchers to deliberate on achievements, issues, and exchange ideas on taking the country forward through advances in science, technology, and innovation. In addition, a digital consortium “Connect Quickly” for online discussion and immediate support has also been established through the I-STEM WhatsApp and Telegram platforms.

In her address on the occasion of the launch, Dr. Maini appreciated the WEST initiative taken by I-STEM and called upon women in S&T to take advantage of it. She advised I-STEM to monitor the impact of the initiative by obtaining feedback and putting steps in place to increase the wider participation of women in WEST and I-STEM.

Dr. Vartika Shukla, CMD, Engineers India Ltd.; Dr. Sunita Mishra, Senior Principal Scientist, Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIO, CSIR); and Dr. Sangeeta Semwal, Scientist, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Govt. of India also congratulated the team on the launch of the platform and called for more participation of women on I-STEM. The programme was attended by participants across the country.

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