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South African academy edges closer to gender parity

South Africa has kicked back against the trend of male domination in African academies with its latest round of fellows. Eight of the 20 members of the Academy of Science of South Africa announced on 10 October are women.

While that is still below parity, at 40 per cent it is better that the continent’s average. A 2016 report found 9 out of 10 African academicians were men.

It is also above ASSAf’s current men-to-women ratio. The 2016 report had three men to every woman on ASSAf’s membership roll: 24 per cent of its then members were women.

The trend is not new for this year. Last year, 17 of 41 new Assaf members were women, corresponding to 41 per cent.

Boosting the number of women researchers and scientists is one of the goals of South Africa’s recent draft white paper on science.

However, other national recognitions are slower to feature women. Only four out of the most recent 25 National Research Foundation A-rated researchers were women. And there was only one woman among four P-rated researchers, who are individuals under the age of 35 tipped to become research leaders in their field.

The new members

The University of Pretoria supplied the most new members overall, with eight, followed by the universities of the Witwatersrand and Cape Town with four and three respectively.

Two researchers from Stellenbosch University were elected, and one apiece from the universities of the Western Cape, North-West, and Johannesburg.

Among the new members are three NRF A-rated researchers: Erika de Wet, Kelly Chibale and Mark Cotton.

Ten new members were also chosen for the South African Young Academy of Science, of whom five are women. SAYAS electees are deemed excellent scientists under the age of 40 with a PhD.

Among the newcomers are Sarah Fawcett from UCT, who was recently awarded a P-rating by the National Research Foundation, and Nhlanhla Mpofu, the director for teaching, learning and programme development at Sol Plaatje University. 

The 20 new ASSAf members are:

Prof Montaz Ali is Professor in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz is Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria (UP) and holds a Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation (DST/NRF) South African Research Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control at the same institution.

Prof Juanita Bornman is both Professor and Director of the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication at UP.

Prof Daniel Bradlow holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in International Development Law and African Economic Relations at UP.

Prof Basil Brooke is Head: Vector Control Reference Laboratory at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and Professor, Research Institute for Malaria, Wits.

Prof Kelly Chibale is a Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and a Full Member of the UCT Institute of Infectious Disease & Molecular Medicine.

Prof Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu is the Director of the School of Public Management and Administration, UP.

Prof Mark Cotton is the Director of the Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

Prof Michael Davies-Coleman is Professor Emeritus and Dean of Natural Sciences and Professor of Chemistry, University of the Western Cape.

Prof Erika de Wet holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in International Constitutional Law in the Faculty of Law, UP.

Prof Rangan Gupta is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Pretoria.

Prof Chaudry Khalique is Professor of Applied Mathematics at North-West University.

Prof Lise Korsten is the Co-Director in the DST Centre of Excellence Food Security. She is also the Head of Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at UP.

Prof Helena Kuivaniemi is Professor in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Stellenbosch University (SU).

Prof Virna Leaner is Professor in the Division of Medical Biochemistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT.

Prof Kevin Naidoo holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Scientific Computing and is Director of the Scientific Computing Research Unit, Chemistry Department, UCT.

Prof Jan Neels is Distinguished Professor of International Commercial Law, University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Prof Charles Ngwena is Professor at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, UP.

Prof João Rodrigues is Head of School of Physics, Wits and Director of the Centre for Theoretical Physics at the same institution.

Prof Marissa Rollnick is Professor Emeritus at the Wits School of Education.

The ten new SAYAS members are:

 Dr Fanelwa Ajayi is a Senior Lecturer at the Chemistry Department and a research leader at the Enzyme Sensor Laboratory, SensorLab at the University of the Western Cape. 

Dr Tatenda Dalu is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Ecology and Resource Management at the University of Venda.

Dr Sarah Fawcett is a Lecturer in the Department of Oceanography at UCT.

Dr Samson Khene is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Rhodes University.

Dr Pradeep Kumar is a Senior Lecturer of Pharmaceutics Wits Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, and a Senior Researcher at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform.

Dr Nhlanhla Mpofu is Director for Teaching, Learning and Programme Development as well as a Senior Lecturer at Sol Plaatje University.

Prof Fulufhelo Nemavhola is an Associate Professor and Head of Department in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of South Africa.

Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye is Project Manager of Dihlare Pty Ltd. based at the Vaal University of Technology.

Dr Amy Slogrove is a Senior Lecturer at SU, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and is based at the Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health in Worcester, South Africa.

Dr Leyla Tavernaro-Haidarian is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Communication at UJ.