More women study science but industry still male-dominated

Since 2013, there have been more female students enrolling in the sciences at Stellenbosch University than male students, but the industry is still dominated by men.

The difference has also been growing year on year. Last year’s enrolment statistics, from the university’s Institutional Research and Planning Department, show that 1 687 females entered the university’s science faculty, as opposed to 1 387 males. This is the largest difference in the past decade.

More female students are also enrolling in other traditionally male-dominated departments like agricultural science. The number of female enrolments in this department has risen from 599 in 2009, to 932 in 2016.

However, the trend at the university has not yet spread to South Africa’s science industry.

In its latest data on Women in Science, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), confirms that although 60% of science undergraduates in South Africa are females, only 44% go on to do research work in the industry, where males are still in the majority.

The Unesco data also reveals an even starker imbalance in the private sector of South Africa’s science industry. In the private sector, which offers higher salaries and better career development opportunities, 65% of the positions are occupied by males.

Final-year AgriSciences student at Stellenbosch University, Anel du Plessis, pointed out that while the increase of female students in the sciences at Stellenbosch University is encouraging, it is still difficult after graduation.

“Just because I am a woman, my employability in this field is much lower. I know I probably won’t get a job as easily as some of my male class mates,” said Du Plessis.

See the Unesco data here.

– Aidan Jones