Exploring the barriers and enablers to gender equitable scientific career pathways in the DELTAS funded African research institutions

Liani, Millicent
(2022) Exploring the barriers and enablers to gender equitable scientific career pathways in the DELTAS funded African research institutions. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The slow progression and under-representation of women in senior scientific career positions is a well-known and persistent global problem. Current statistics indicate that women account for only 28 percent of all researchers worldwide, although Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been identified amongst the region with the lowest numbers of women in science careers. To inform action for change, there is a need to go beyond numerical evidence of inequalities to understanding the underlying social, cultural and institutional drivers and processes that produce gender inequities in science careers. Nonetheless, in SSA, there is a dearth of empirical studies about how gender intersects with other individual multiple social identities to produce inequities in career progression outcomes for both women and men research scientists, as most available studies have focused only on women as a homogenous group. In this thesis, I explore the barriers and enablers to gender equitable scientific career pathways in the ‘Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science in Africa’ (DELTAS Africa) funded African research institutions. The overarching aim is to produce empirical evidence from a holistic, gender comparative and intersectional perspective that can be used to develop appropriate strategies to promote career equity for internationally competitive African scientific researchers. To do this, I adopted an exploratory qualitative cross-sectional study design. I conducted in-depth interviews and key informant interviews in three purposively selected DELTAS Africa Research Consortia between May and December 2018 in English. I analysed the data inductively based on emergent themes, whilst aligning them to the developed integrated conceptual framework. The study finds that career progression of women and men researchers is shaped by intersections between gender roles and social power relations of gender within the family, wider society, and workplace institutions themselves, mediated by macro-level forces of patriarchy, capitalism, and neo-colonialism. This leads to a highly complex and competitive environment characterised by limited access to the necessary research resources; dissatisfaction with operational policies and power structures, and institutional practices and culture; and differential gendered barriers to participation in scientific research activities. In this process, gender intersects with other aspects of identity, leading to differing work experiences and inequities in career progression. Current support mechanisms and coping strategies utilised by women and men researchers, existing enabling mechanisms at institutional level for enhancing gender equitable career progression, and participants’ own recommendations for positive change in policy and practice have been highlighted. These findings offer important policy and practice implications for future research capacity strengthening programming, including DELTAS Africa II initiative (2021-2025) and related initiatives. They provide insights on understanding the challenges experienced, and potential strategies and actions for fostering equitable scientific research career progression for women and men in the context of sub-Saharan African research institutions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2022 10:38
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:16
DOI: 10.17638/03146824
  • Tolhurst, Rachel
  • Nyamongo, Isaac
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3146824