The role of women had changed dramatically over the past decade with more and more entering professions once regarded as male domains and it is especially true on the African continent.
In a survey among successful female STEM scientists on the continent, not only was personal capabilities cited as a reason to enter the profession, but also the support of families. Lower down on the scale of importance was job security and higher salaries and of course, a natural inquisitive nature and a need for continuous new knowledge.
However, personal passion with a high level of support was noted by 74% of women choosing these scientific careers. The survey also indicated that mentors and training opportunities with the necessary financial backing, featured high on the decision making agenda of young women.
Experts at the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States published a paper providing rules for ensuring the success of women in STEM. According to Rupert DD, Nowlan, OH Tam and Gale Hammell, who compiled the report, the most important factor was a clear organisational mission statement reflecting a more supportive, collaborative and equal scientific community for all, taking into consideration issues affecting women.
The second point of consideration should be to carefully consider the organisation’s primary goals given the limitations of their women-power, resources and institutional support. Special attention should be given to leadership roles and board member expectations. Volunteer advocacy provides scientific trainees with real-life experience, incorporating leadership, time management and negotiation, all integral to a science career.
The other rules focused on harnessing the strength of members, identifying goals common to institutions and groups, promoting diversity, cultivate membership and reach out beyond your scientific community. Lastly, assess, analyse and adapt to strengths, weaknesses and the passion of the group, as well as identifying internal resources and use criticism constructively.
In conclusion, these rules had been proven successful in growing a grassroots organisation by targeting specific inequities while balancing inclusivity.
While the expert opinion is that no one-size-fits-all model is available, the document provides sufficient information to conduct similar data-driven evaluations towards the ultimate goal of achieving gender parity in STEM