BIRAC, in collaboration with Grand Challenges India, and WomenLift Health Announce the Women Leadership in STEM Programme

New Delhi, October 17, 2023—The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Government of India enterprise, has partnered with WomenLift Health to launch a leadership development programme to empower women leaders working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in India. The Women Leadership in STEM (WLS) programme, under the Grand Challenges India (GCI) initiative, aims to catalyse a systemic change towards gender equity in STEM leadership by investing in mid-career women professionals and providing them with the tools, networks, and mentorship needed to excel in their chosen fields.

This part-time programme will bring together a cohort of 20 mid-career women leaders working in STEM institutions in India for three fully funded, five-day residential leadership workshops over the course of a year. The sessions have been designed, in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership, to support these women to realise their potential and grow as leaders and decision-makers as well as foster a strong network of champions and institutional partners. The WLS programme also includes a Leadership Project to address real-world challenges related to centering women and girls in STEM, catalysing institutional change, optimising pathways to leadership, building integrated and resilient health systems, and STEM innovation and policy in India.

The WLS programme is in line with the Government of India’s commitment towards women-led development, as articulated at the G20 Summit in September 2023. Through its focus on transformative leadership and mentorship for women working in STEM, the programme offers a pathway for their increased representation and participation in decision-making processes, leading to more balanced and diverse leadership teams.

“The Women Leadership in STEM programme is a testament to our commitment to breaking barriers and creating a more inclusive STEM ecosystem in India,” said Dr. Shirshendu Mukherjee, Mission Director, Programme Management Unit, BIRAC. “We believe that by investing in the development of women leaders, we are  driving innovation and progress in India’s scientific landscape.”

“When women have equal access to leadership, the health of women, men and children improves. ” said Amie Batson, President, WomenLift Health. “It is an honor to work with the Government of India as it prioritizes investments in women leaders in STEM and health .”   

Dr. Renu Swarup, Indian geneticist and Former Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India said: “It is heartening to see the institution of a programme like Women Leadership in STEM that centres the experiences of women scientists in its design and offers a clear pathway for them to grow into leadership. Beyond breaking barriers, it is crucial to transform mindsets and systems themselves to offer a holistic, enabling environment to empower the thousands of women who enter STEM fields in India every year.”

Shereen Bhan, Leadership Development and North America Director, WomenLift Health said: “My father, Dr. Maharaj Kishan Bhan, devoted his life to the development of young minds and  collaborated with and mentored women scientists and researchers throughout his career. The news of this partnership is something that he would have fully supported and would be proud of as a mentor and also as a founding member of BIRAC. The WLS program is a big milestone for WomenLift and for me personally, as a pioneer member of WomenLift Health.”

Dr. Bhan was a former Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology and a founding member of BIRAC. As Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for ten years, he played a key role in the establishment of many new institutes, clusters, and innovation support agencies in order to transform the biotechnology sector in the country. Dr. Bhan was also a National Science Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Government of India, President of JIPMER, and an advisor to the World Health Organization.

The call for applications to the WLS programme will open on October 27, 2023; mid-career women professionals with 10-25 years of experience in recognised public and private STEM institutions in India are eligible to apply.

For more information about the Women Leadership in STEM program, please visit

Media Contact: Contact Sanaya Chandar (Senior Coordinator – Strategic Communications, India, WomenLift Health) at or +91 98236 50505 for more information.


About BIRAC:

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Government of India enterprise, acts as a vital Interface Agency for the biotech sector. It focuses on strategic research, innovation, and national product development needs. BIRAC facilitates industry-academia collaboration through targeted funding, technology transfer, and IP management. Over eight years, BIRAC has bridged gaps in innovation research, enabling the creation of affordable, high-quality products. The organization partners with national and global entities to realize its mission of empowering the biotech industry, particularly startups and SMEs, for the betterment of society.


About WomenLift Health

Established in 2019, WomenLift Health works to advance equality in health leadership through a range of actions at the individual, institutional and societal levels. Through our signature Leadership Journey, we invest in the capacity of mid-career women, actively working with them to expand their power and influence in health – across countries, cultures, sectors, and disciplines. In addition to investing in the woman leader’s agency for change, our work includes engaging in conversations and partnerships with health institutions to influence the environment in which people live and work. It also includes leveraging societal momentum by fostering a global dialogue about the importance of women’s leadership and amplifying the voices of national and global leaders, including at our annual conference, Women Leaders in Global Health.