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Study sheds light on what it takes for women to succeed – or not – in science in Africa

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Source: Allen Muyaama Mukhwana and Judy Omumbo, The Conversation, 1 November 2020, photo credit: BioSpace

Women are 49.6% of the world’s population. An estimated 70% of the health and social care workforce are women; they deliver care to around 5 billion people. Women are also at the front-line of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic – as health care givers, researchers, scientists and policymakers.

There is a well recognised gender disparity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This prompted the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa) to conduct a study on factors contributing to or inhibiting women’s careers in these key fields in Africa.

The study highlighted the numerous factors that contribute to or hinder women’s success in these fields. It also explored how these reinforce each other. Understanding what these factors are, and how they operate, is vital to devising the multi-pronged approach that’s necessary for tackling these challenges.

This is the first review of its kind that gives an African perspective of the challenges that women in these fields face. They are by no means unique to Africa. What we do find significant is the stronger influence in Africa of role models, mentoring and family support in moving women along the trajectory of a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
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