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An intersectional gender analysis of familial and socio-cultural drivers of inequitable scientific career progression of researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Liani, Millicent, Nyamongo, Isaac K., Pulford, Justin ORCID: and Tolhurst, Rachel ORCID: (2021) 'An intersectional gender analysis of familial and socio-cultural drivers of inequitable scientific career progression of researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa'. Global health research and policy, Vol 6, Issue 30.

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Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffers from a dearth of concrete information on the causes of women’s under-representation in scientific research workforce particularly at higher levels compared with the wealth of information that exists in the global north. The goal of this study was to illuminate familial and socio-cultural drivers that contribute to intersectional gender inequities in scientific career progression in SSA to inform strategies that could promote career equity for African scientific researchers.

This study was nested within the context of ‘Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science in Africa’ (DELTAS Africa)—a health-based scientific research capacity strengthening initiative. It adopted an exploratory qualitative cross-sectional study design. In-depth interviews were conducted among 58 (32 Female and 26 Male) trainees/research fellows at various career stages, affiliated to three purposively selected African Research Consortia. The interviews were conducted between May and December 2018 in English. The data were analysed inductively based on emergent themes.

The study participants were nationals of thirteen SSA countries. More female than male participants had young children. Four themes were identified. They illustrate women’s and men’s characterisation of the normative career pathway and progression requirements which calls for significant ‘time’ commitments (theme 1), and how social power relations of gender within the family and wider society shapes their participation in scientific research activities (theme 2). This culminates in researchers'' differential experiences of navigating between the ‘two different lives’—family and career, and the resultant implications for their career progression and personal well-being (theme 3). Women researchers made different and conscious trade-offs for navigating the ‘two different lives’ by utilising various metaphors such as the ‘biological clock and career clock’, the ‘glass ball and rubber ball’, and the concept of ‘sacrifice’ (theme 4).

This study is the first of its kind to demonstrate how intersectional gender analysis through use of qualitative research methods may provide novel insights into the hidden familial and socio-cultural drivers of gender inequitable scientific research career progression. It offers important policy and practice measures and approaches for fostering career equity for women and men scientists within research capacity strengthening initiatives in SSA.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21.5 Allied health personnel. Allied health professions
W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21 Medicine as a profession.
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Rachel Dominguez
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2021 14:41
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2021 14:41


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