oa South African Journal of Science - A gender perspective on career challenges experienced by African scientists - research

Volume 115 Number 3-4
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Empirical knowledge of the career challenges that confront African scientists, and women scientists in particular, holds an important key to achieving future success in the science systems of the continent. In this article, we address a lack of evidence generally on the careers of scientists in Africa, by providing the first continent-wide description of the challenges they face, and how these challenges differ between women and men. Our analysis of questionnaire-survey data on approximately 5000 African scientists from 30 countries shows that women are not more challenged than men by a variety of career-related issues, with the exception of balancing work and family, which the majority of women, regardless of age and region, experience. Contrary to expectations, women are not only less likely than men to report a lack of funding as having impacted negatively on their careers, but have been more successful at raising research funding in the health sciences, social sciences and humanities. These results, as well as those from a comparison of women according to age and region, are linked to existing scholarship, which leads us to recommend priorities for future interventions aimed at effectively ensuring the equal and productive participation of women in the science systems of Africa. These priorities are addressing women’s work–family role conflict; job security among younger women scientists; and women in North African and Western African countries.
• This study is the first to describe, on a multinational scale, the career challenges that confront African scientists, and women scientists in particular.
• Contrary to expectations, we found that African women scientists do not report experiencing career challenges to a larger extent than men do, and have been more     successful at raising research funding in three of the six major scientific fields.
• However, the findings highlight the significance of the challenge that balancing work and family poses to the majority of African women scientists.

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