Diversity in the scientific community is of the utmost importance and it is important to know that the inclusion of women in science is inevitable. Women have done so much for the scientific community, and as time goes by, the impact of women in science will become greater, creating more opportunities for other women to come.
This is according to Mrs Elandré Williams, analyst in the South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADoCoL), housed by the University of the Free State (UFS). Williams, who is primarily responsible for analyses and method development conducted by the GC-C-IRMS, believes there are opportunities for more women to contribute to the ever-changing field of science and research. She is also part of the team responsible for all analytical work regarding the analysis of anabolic steroids by GC-MS/MS.
Possibilities for women as scientists and researchers
“When I look at our field of expertise in the anti-doping community, there are a lot of possibilities for women as scientists and researchers to contribute to the science; the number of women in the laboratories is growing, again taking it back to our laboratory employees, consisting mainly of women scientists.”
“Young women now have the ability and opportunities to study science, to do research, and to participate in scientific innovations. Scientific laboratories are encouraged to offer positions for women, which can contribute to the empowerment of young women and to encourage women to pursue a career in science,” says Williams.
Having to find your own way in a scientific community that was once led by men only, can still be challenging at times, but, says Williams, even though women are climbing the ladder quickly, both women and men today still use the science that was once developed by men. This science is now evolving and changed by women. “It is an honour to be a female scientist and to know that the efforts and achievements of our scientific work and excellence will hopefully one day also benefit other women as scientists.”
Making a contribution to the Olympic Games
With the Olympic Games taking place this year, Williams and her colleagues are at the forefront of making a positive contribution to the Games as an anti-doping laboratory. Says Williams: “It is an honour to be a part of something that has a positive impact on sport, as well as something as big as the Olympics. Although the pressure of an Olympic year brought about several challenges, it taught me how to work well under pressure and made me aware of the kind of pressure I can work in.”
According to her, her first Olympic year at SADoCoL made her realise that the more she does, the more she can do. It is, however, says Williams, not an individual goal, but a combined goal of the SADoCoL team to ensure that they make a positive contribution.
What challenges do women still face?
Williams believes that women in the 21st century have more opportunities than in previous decades. “In the era we live in, women advocating for women are seen more often and it will remain this way if all women in all areas of life and careers continue to stand up for what they believe in and continue to influence other women in their professional careers.
“Sexism is one of the biggest challenges facing women in society. Women are excluded from positions that hold power, they are unable to express their concerns, and are also unable to contribute to the authority that mostly men have. Young women are also faced with difficulties when making career choices due to the lack of information and available career opportunities that they can pursue,” says Williams.
These challenges can be addressed by simply realising the impact and role that women play in our society and all over the world. According to Williams, women should be introduced to leadership positions and should be given equal opportunities as men.
“I do believe that if every person acknowledges the real worth of the person next to them, whatever gender, equality will be established in the near future. Women have become more than just housewives and ‘moms’; in fact, women, just as men, have an incredible force inside them that will be remembered forever if they are given the chance to showcase their capabilities and talents.”
Science has helped to shape her
“Although these challenges might not be resolved quickly, I do believe that we as women have the power to overcome it, but it begins with us, all women today, to ensure that we leave a positive change in the world for the women coming after us.”
Williams concludes by saying that science – for which you need certain values, such as honesty, courage, being meticulous – helped to shape her into who she is today. “It taught me so much through challenging times where I had the option to either ‘jump in at the deep end and swim’ or drown’; I opted to ‘swim’, and this is a decision that I make every day, and I give it my utmost best. It has shown me what I am capable of and so much more – what I can achieve in the future.”