GFAR blog

We-men in science


Just 28% of the world’s researchers are women. For this year’s “Women’s Day” my boss wanted some figures about the participation of women in science in our domain. How many of them were in managing positions? How many of them were project leaders? The answer was 30% and 32% respectively.

Is it necessary to have 50/50 everywhere? I don’t think so. I would like to see smart women in managerial positions not because we have to fill a ratio, but because they want the jobs and they are the best candidates. I think that we’ll have a problem if there are some women out there trying to reach these positions who are being left behind because they want to have children!

I’m again attending a conference (GCARD3 in Johannesburg), surrounded by young ladies willing to contribute to science but worried about how to balance work demands with their personal lives. I attended the session on the theme, “Keeping science relevant and future-focused”, in which the question was asked,  ‘How are we going to train young professionals to be ready to take the helm from senior experts that are now in management-level positions?’  Sokhna R. Gaye  said that while she was undertaking her PhD she became pregnant and  she struggled to come back to her scientific career. I felt that Sokhna was willing to reach for those managerial positions and was working hard to be a successful but that there were obstacles in her path.

One very relevant idea that was presented during the sesion was a very innovate PhD program called Ag-Train. The special feature of this PhD program is that every  research subject is coming from a need identified on the field and the supervison is done by two different Institutions so that a multidisciplinary approach is ensured to adress the subject.

Lana Repar was the young lady that acted as speaker and who is also candidate for Ag-Train PhD program. I was glad to notice that Lana didn’t encounter the same challenges during her PhD as Sokhna did. However I’m afraid that if Institutions don’t evolve, the day that Lana might decide to create her family she will be infront of those challenges too for being a women in science.

Science-based institutions could/should be “women friendly”. They should work on the basis of the Ghanaian proverb that says “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (and so a nation)”.

What about implementing a specific mentoring system to help young women who have had a child during their PhD study return to complete it? There are already similar systems in place elsewhere that are working quite well.

Replacing someone is not easy, but when a woman is pregnant we know when will she be leaving, so why not bring in an efficient replacement before she actually leaves to ensure a successful handover? Yes that costs, but it’s worth it.  Investing in women is investing on our nation, and our Ghanaian brothers know it. And what about granting  men  paternity leave as well? God bless babies’ bottles!

With these little changes maybe one day this blog post could be written by you-men in science.

Blogpost by Myriam Pérez Dumoulin, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – myriam_pd(at)
Illustration by J. Howard Miller (Westinghouse/Wikipedia)

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


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