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‘Women are more likely to get into the mud’


Female scientists sacrificed own work to help Covid-19 testing, webinar hears

Women scientists have shouldered much of the extra laboratory work brought on by Covid-19, a webinar to discuss the challenges faced by women scientists in the pandemic has heard.

The webinar, organised by the South African Young Academy of Science on 30 August, was told that although women now dominate in public health science and medicine, the upper echelons of the disciplines remain male-dominated. 

Damaris Matoke-Muhia, a deputy director at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, pointed out that at Kemri it was the women researchers who took up most of the extra work, such as testing, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

This was also observed in South Africa. Amy Slogrove, a professor in paediatrics at Stellenbosch University, said that women scientists sacrificed their own research to do contract testing and tracing in the Western Cape, and that women took on most of this work.

She did not think this was only because they felt they had to: many want to engage with the human side of their discipline, she said. “Women are more likely to get into the mud, to do the less glamorous work in research. Women are more likely to see the human perspective [in research.”

Salome Maswime, the head of global surgery at the University of Cape Town, said that women were leading and prevalent in health research but had to actively fight to get funding. She said it is up to women to inspire younger generations to take up careers in science to achieve parity.