Driving gender equity in African scientific institutions

Elsevier, The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10171, 9–15 February 2019, Pages 504-506.
Barbara Tiedeu, Oluwafunmilayo Para-Mallam and Dorothy Nyambic

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).

Women account for 53% of the world's bachelor's and master's degree graduates and 43% of PhD graduates, but only 28% of researchers in all fields. Only 30% of women in higher education move into STEM-related fields. Similarly, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of researchers in all subject areas are women. For example, in Cameroon, enrolment in tertiary education was estimated at 20% for men and 15% for women in 2017 and women constituted only 22% of Cameroonian researchers and only 7% of academics at the rank of full professor. Between 2011 and 2013, there was an increase in the percentage of women researchers in South Africa (43·7%), Egypt (42·8%), Morocco (30·2%), Senegal (24·9%), Nigeria (23·3%), Rwanda (21·8%), Cameroon (21·8%), and Ethiopia (13·3%). However, there is an attrition in the number of women along the career trajectory in scientific research. Gender disparities persist in the scientific workforce, generally concentrating female scientists in the lower echelons of responsibility and decision making with limited leadership opportunities. This situation limits the diverse perspectives that ensure robust scientific agendas and allow women's contributions and advancement.