ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Learning to Belong as an Indian Physicist

Sumathi Rao (sumathirao1999@gmail.com) teaches theoretical condensed matter physics at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad.

In this article, I map out my trajectory as a theoretical physicist, especially highlighting my experiences as a woman in a domain which is especially male-dominated, even more so than in other areas of science research. I reflect on the larger problems women in physics find themselves up against and which range from fewer numbers of women in these areas of science, to integration of women into peer groups, widely prevalent sexist attitudes in their workspaces, lack of support facilities like childcare, and sexual harassment in the workplace. In spite of more women finding jobs in physics in recent years, the attitudinal shifts required to make a genuine difference in the culture of research have not yet fallen into place. Issues of discrimination, whether due to gender, race or caste, prevalent in science have to do with institutional structures and the culture of research. However, the “hard” sciences like physics deal with immutable, objective knowledge, which is itself not marked by these human discriminants.

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