Bridging the gender gap for women in science in Africa
Women scientists have a vital part to play in scientific leadership and in contributing to Africa’s development and transformation, but they remain substantially under-represented in higher education and in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, accounting for only 28% of science researchers, while their male counterparts dominate this field with a total of 72% of men engaged in STEM careers.
This has meant that there is a lack of gendered and diverse perspectives essential to addressing gender dimensions on issues like the burden of infectious diseases, which often disproportionately affect women, according to the World Health Organization.
Cognizant of the gender disparity in STEM, the AESA platform (Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa - a partnership of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)) with support from IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organization, undertook a study to examine factors which contribute to or inhibit women from pursuing STEM careers in Africa.
The three main barriers curtailing the participation of women in science are:
“Globally, far fewer women are principal investigators on urgent research and development projects, including HIV vaccines. This trend is particularly pronounced in developing countries, where women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV, tuberculosis, and emerging infectious and neglected diseases,” said Yolanda Moyo, Senior Director, Advocacy and Policy, IAVI. “Together with AAS and with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, IAVI is pleased to launch this report that will hopefully speed up actions to close the gender gap in the STEM fields”
"To bridge the gender gap for African women in science we need to ensure both policy and programmatic measures are institutionalised to safeguard gender equity in STEM especially in the education system and workplaces," said Allen Mukhwana, AAS Research Systems Manager.
There is need for a multipronged approach to address the challenges that women face in their quest to pursue STEM courses and succeed while in practice. The study draws out five recommendations that need to be addressed to level the playing field and encourage gender equality in sciences.
Interventions to ensure comprehensive support structures for women in STEM need to be anchored in law through relevant policies to safeguard gender equity in STEM both in the education system and workplaces.
“Equipping more African women and girls to engage in global health product development and testing should be prioritized as part of a global strategy to defeat COVID-19 as well as ongoing epidemics such as HIV and tuberculosis,” said Kundai Chinyenze, M.D., executive medical director, IAVI. "An inclusive approach is vital to guarantee global access to future vaccines and biomedical innovations as the tools will have been designed by and for the diverse populations to benefit – including women and girls.”
Notes to editors
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA)
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) was created in 2015 through a partnership of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and global partners. The mission of AESA is to shift the centre of gravity for African science to Africa through agenda setting, mobilizing Research & Development (R&D) funding, and managing continent-wide Science, Technology & Innovation (STI) programmes that promote the brightest minds, strengthening the best possible science environments in Africa, fostering scientific excellence, inspiring and mentoring emerging research leaders, and accelerating and translating research & innovations into products, policies and practices that will improve and transform lives in Africa.
The African Academy of Sciences
The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) is a non-aligned, non-political, not-for-profit pan African organisation whose vision is to see transformed lives on the African continent through science. Our tripartite mandate is recognising excellence, providing advisory and think tank functions and implementing key STI programmes addressing Africa’s developmental challenges. The Academy’s five strategic focus areas include: Environment and climate change; health and wellbeing; natural sciences; policy and governance; and social sciences and humanities
Join us on Facebook.com/AASciences and Twitter @AASciences and learn more by visiting www.aasciences.africa
African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)
The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is the development agency of the African Union, coordinating and executing priority regional and continental development projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realisation of Agenda 2063 – Africa’s vision and action plan www.nepad.org.
IAVI is a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent, unmet global health challenges including HIV and tuberculosis. Its mission is to translate scientific discoveries into affordable, globally accessible public health solutions. Read more at www.iavi.org.
The African Academy of Sciences, Nairobi, Kenya
Deborah-Fay NdlovuI firstname.lastname@example.org I +254 727 660 760; +254 20 806 0674
IAVI, Nairobi Kenya
Ethel Makila, email@example.com I +254 72799428529