In an encouraging move for gender-inclusive science policy, South African Minister of Science & Technology Naledi Pandor announced September 2 that the Department of Science & Technology (DST) is creating 42 new chairs at research institutions throughout the country for women scientists. These 42 chairs are added to the existing 155 established under the DST’s South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) launched in 2006.
The initiative seeks to bolster the country’s competitiveness in science and strengthen its research capacity by attracting and retaining top scientists. While it has proved to be a remarkably successful program thus far, SARChI has faced the problem common in upper-level science of a wide gender imbalance; four out of five of the previously awarded chairs went to male researchers. Minister Pandor hopes the appointment of the new chairs will even the scales.
“SARChI takes the systemic bias and gender gate-keeping out of the programme,” she said during the announcement in Cape Town.
The newly appointed chairs come from areas of research ranging from pediatric tuberculosis, to gender and childhood sexuality, to the chemistry of indigenous medicinal plants. They will receive up to R2.5 million per year (approximately USD $109,000) to perform their research.