Insights to the challenges in pursuing and succeeding at STEM careers faced by women in Africa, and a multipronged approach to addressing them
August is Women’s Month in South Africa. Every year, tribute is paid to a group of over 20,000 women who marched against the country’s Pass Laws that discriminated against women in 1956. The month is also set aside to celebrate the achievements and contribution of all women to society. However, according to United Nations Institute for Statistics, women’s contribution to research and innovation is yet to reach its full potential in Africa.
Women account for just 30 percent of sub Saharan Africa’s researchers. By not bridging the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the continent is off-target to for the global aspiration of gender equality and empower all women and girls (Sustainable Development Goal number 5). Africa is also missing out on a more gendered perspective in addressing critical issues in global health like the burden of infectious diseases, which often disproportionately affect women and girls.
A newly released report by IAVI and 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) sheds light on the question of women’s underrepresentation in STEM careers in Africa. The report — Factors which Contribute to or Inhibit Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in Africa — also provides a multipronged approach including societal, institutional and policy measures that can be used to address the challenges they face in their quest to pursue STEM courses and succeed while in practice.
This report by IAVI and AESA provides insights to bridging the gender gap for careers in STEM in Africa and was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Building sustainable capacity among African scientists, including the next generation of women scientists, is one of the core focus areas of ADVANCE (Accelerate the Development of Vaccines and New Technologies to Combat the AIDS Epidemic), a cooperative agreement among IAVI and USAID through PEPFAR.