Wits researcher Ayanda Magida. Supplied image.
Wits researcher Ayanda Magida. Supplied image.

Wits fellowship aims to transform the representation of females in academia

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published May 15, 2021

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Wits researcher Ayanda Magida is the first of her generation to attend university and through the tertiary education’s new initiative, she will be able to take her studies even further.

The Joburg university’s Female Academic Leaders Fellowship (FALF), which was officially launched this week, aims to alter the gender and racial profile of leaders in academia.

Now Magida, as well as 29 other African and coloured women from a range of disciplines and faculties, have been selected to receive a fellowship which includes a collective of about R8 million from various donors.

The faculty and researcher in the Chair in Digital Business (BCX) and a PhD candidate at Wits Business School told The Saturday Star this week that she was thrilled to be part of “such a life-changing initiative”.

“It seeks to not only empower young and upcoming female academics to grow, develop and upward mobility in academia.”

“As a first-generation academic in my family, this fellowship will enable me to buy the necessary time to complete my PhD and work towards an NRF (National Research Foundation) rating.

Magida, whose research interest focuses on the social and economic impact of digitalisation and the fourth Industrial Revolution, also believes that the fellowship will empower her and the other recipients with the necessary leadership skills needed in academia, while also enabling them to continue working in academia.

“It will also allow me to conduct more research that will inform policies and potentially influence decision making for the benefit of the country.”

FALF is the brainchild of Wits Chancellor and leading businesswoman Dr Judy Dlamini and was created as a way to improve representation of women of colour in the academic world.

“The proportion of women graduates in South Africa, has increased over the past 20 years, making up 60% of graduates at junior and honours level; at Master’s level the proportion has increased to 44.6% and at Doctorate level to 58.2% enrolment,” Dr Dlamini explained.

“In spite of these positive changes, women in leadership within institutions of higher learning are still under-represented in South Africa and African and coloured women barely feature in leadership.”

Dr Dlamini said according to their research, not all women in South Africa were missing from leadership positions and that this fellowship aims to include those who were.

“White and indian women are doing better than their national demographic proportion, however, South African-African and coloured women do not have a seat at the table yet.”

“That is the area that FALF seeks to address, assisted by the Wits executive.”

Magida, who also made The Mail and Guardian list of young South Africans in the education category in 2019, shared Dr Dlamini’s sentiments and described the fellowship as an emancipation tool in helping young black and female academics to achieve their fullest potential.

“There is a lack of representation of women in academia, especially black women, and they are also under-represented especially in senior positions such as associate and full professor levels.”

“There is a need to have an intentional diversity and inclusion agenda and to create an enabling environment for upcoming early career academics so that they can establish themselves and grow into the different tracks.”

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