Pandor calls for incentives for women in science

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor called for special incentives to encourage women to follow careers in science as she opened a five-day international physics conference in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.

Pandor told the 4th International Union of Pure and Applied Physics International Conference of Women in Physics that South Africa was probably absent from the Thomson Reuters’ list of 20 top countries in the field because women here were discouraged from studying science.

“I can’t help thinking that this is because we have not yet properly unleashed the scientific talent of half of our people, the better half, the women,” she said.

“It has to be said that women are not encouraged to be scientists ... Girls and women are not supposed to be good at maths or science. And it shows in the studies of performance in maths and science at school.
Boys do better because they are encouraged to do better.”

Pandor said South Africa therefore needed to add to existing measures, which include research fellowships and special grants, to support women scientists, and to nurture school pupils who showed an interest in physics.

“We need incentives in favour of developing women in research, not only for its own sake but also to compensate for women’s dual careers at home and work”.

She said mentoring, good teachers and an encouraging family environment had all been shown to be key ingredients in preparing young girls for a career in science.—Sapa

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