Ensuring African women scientists and engineers get the chance to contribute to growth

Promoting Women in Science in Africa: Policy Options and Strategies Workshop, 18-20 July 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

How can African women in science and engineering contribute to inclusive growth and create wealth? This is the question that women leaders in science, engineering and technology will debate at a workshop being organized by UNESCO in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 18 to 20 July 2012, in partnership with the L’Oreal Corporate Foundation.

The workshop will examine options and strategies for promoting women in science and engineering in Africa. The timing is ideal, for over 200 women scientists will be gathered in Johannesburg over the same period for the annual award ceremony of the UNESCO/L’Oreal Regional Fellowship for Women in Science in sub-Saharan Africa.


Africa’s capacity to compete on the global market depends on its ability to innovate using science technology and innovation (STI) to transform its vast natural and latent human resource capability into value added goods, processes and service. This requires harnessing the potential of its population through education and training to create a critical mass of experts in STI and providing equal access for both men and women. Thenumber of women who pursue science and engineering programmes in higher education institutions are fewer than men. Furthermore, the ability to retain the few women who embark on training in science disciplines is hindered by discrimination and suppressed motivation. The few African women in science and engineering also face unique challenges that are likely to derail their careers at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. And the result is that all over the continent, there are still very few women scientists and engineers with even fewer in leadership positions to articulate the inclusion of women in the management of science and technology institutions.

Development of a critical mass of scientists in the region is one of the pillars for the promotion of S&T for development and it is important that this inequity is addressed because human resource capacity building cannot be completely successful if half of the population is faced with constraints in access to higher education in Science & Technology. The promotion of women in science and technology requires actions at all levels using different modalities including advocacy, enactment of appropriate policies and capacity building. There are also issues of strategy such as acquisition of skills for prospective market demands, capacity in teaching and research in new and emerging areas of science, advocacy, policy planning and management, mentoring and the use of role models in the promotion of women in science. What can Africa do to meet the demands for quality science and engineering education and increase the number of women in science? These issues need to be discussed and strategies and actions developed to accelerate women’s access and participation in science and technology.

Objectives and expected outcome


The overall objective of this workshop is to bring together women scientists and engineers to discuss the status of women in science and engineering in Africa and to deliberate on the effective ways of increasing girls/women’s access to science and engineering for enhanced employment opportunity and inclusive growth.

The specific objectives of the meeting are:

  • Assess progress made in promotion of women in science and engineering in Africa by identifying challenges, priorities and opportunities. Case studies from experiences of renowned women scientists and engineers
  • Identify key areas of training to enhance access of girls/women in new and emerging fields of science and engineering
  • Develop strategic actions for education and training of women in science and engineering to enhance their employment opportunities and career paths for inclusive growth.

Expected Outcome

  • A critical mass of high-level scientists trained in the assessment of policy issues that affect the promotion and retention of women in science and engineering to inform national and continental STI policies.
  • Strategic action plan with time frame will be developed to enhance the promotion of women in science and engineering in Africa for sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development of Africa.
  • Recommendations made on policy options for the way forward and shared with universities, national governments and development partners.


Participants will include:

More information on the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science

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