The appointments committee of the Cabinet on Tuesday “approved the proposal for appointment of Dr Dhriti Banerjee, scientist E, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) as director …”. Banerjee will be taking charge some time next week. Speaking to on Wednesday, she said, “I believe ZSI’s 100-year legacy would help me catapult the organisation to greener and futuristic heights in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.”
The 51-year-old has had an illustrious career as a scientist, conducting research in taxonomy, zoogeography, morphology and molecular systematics. She has been co-ordinator of ZSI’s Digital Sequence Information Project since 2012.
On breaking the glass-ceiling in this organisation, she mused, “Women are blessed with unique power to strike a balance between work and family. But I was lucky to have had an exceptionally supportive one – my husband Sughran, daughter Roinee and my parents. I am also grateful to my mentors in the organisation for their guidance.”
Even though women are equal partners in scientific development and nation-building, their scientific journey around the world began only in the late 19th century. In fact, ZSI, headquartered in Kolkata with 16 regional centres under the ministry of environment, forests and climate change, started hiring women scientists as late as 1949, after more than three decades since its inception on 1 July 1916. Mira Mansukhani thus created history in an organisation which until then was largely dominated by men.
“ZSI’s women scientists have been carrying out regular surveys exploring faunal diversity from the Himalayas to the deep sea and nearly 60% of the new species discovered are by women scientists today,” said Banerjee. “In the past century, only 20% of the total scientific staff strength in ZSI were represented by women. But their scientific contributions prove that they have played a key role in strengthening the roots of ZSI,” she said.
ZSI documented the contribution of 100 women scientists on the occasion of its centenary celebrations in 2016. Banerjee had co-authored the document titled “The Glorious 100 women’s Scientific Contribution in ZSI”, on women scientists contribution to studies related to different animal groups.
Banerjee was also part of a team in June 2015 that traced the grave of ZSI’s first director-general Thomas Nelson Annandale, who was buried at the Scottish Cemetery in April, 1924. “It was an extremely rewarding experience,” smiled Banerjee.