SCIENCE AND ART: Scientist Amanda Skepu at the Mintek stand at the Science Forum South Africa in the CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naudé/ANA
Pretoria - The role of women in science, technology and innovation came under the spotlight during the two-day Science Forum South Africa at the CSIR on Friday, with calls being made to increase the number of female scientists.

Nuclear scientist and entrepreneur Dr Nomso Faith Kana said much needed to be done to promote the role of women and especially rural-based girls in the science and technology field.

Kana took part in a discussion about the role of women in science and innovation on the final day of the forum on Friday.

“I believe there is so much potential in Africa, and that we are so skilled that we can solve our own problems. However, there is still so much to do to promote women in science and technology.”

She is part of a non-profit organisation which operates in the SADC region, aimed at finding talent in and for the rural areas.

“We look for girls in rural areas who have high aptitude for maths and science and a passion for rural development. In order for these girls to progress, we have a group of professional scientists who mentor them,” she said.

“We have realised that even if there is some progress, there are few of us women in science,” she said.

Dr Kirsti Slotsvik, director-general at Norwegian Coastal Administration, encouraged women who wanted to become scientists to obtain higher education to prepare them for the rigours of the scientific world.

She said it was important for women who are in the field to have a strong family support system, and advised them to find their "secret weapons" in life.

“In my case, I use humour. Be honest and direct. Knowledge is about listening to people and understanding what is going on,” she said.

Dr Jaisheila Rajput, a scientist in the green economy sector, related her story of the challenges she had faced when she chose to study science.

She said she was confronted with negative perceptions from her business-oriented community. However, the attitude towards her changed after she had enrolled and completed her studies.

“I started to hear stories of young people starting to sign up for science degrees. And this is something I never really realised: I was busy looking around for other people to be role models and what I didn’t realise was that sometimes you just have to lead the way,” she said.

The forum, hosted under the theme "Igniting Conversations about Science", was attended by more than 2000 delegates, including many women scientists such as Mintek's Dr Amanda Skepu, who also reaches out to rural women teaching them skills.

Pretoria News