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Eliminating Barriers to Women’s Participation in Science - A Study of the African Research Universities Alliance

In Africa, as globally, women academics are concentrated in disciplines other than the natural, physical, and applied sciences (horizontal segregation) as well as in junior ranks (vertical stratification). This negatively affects the numbers of women available for leadership positions in academic institutions.

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) brings together 16 of sub-Saharan Africa’s research-intensive universities. As globally connected and respected institutions, these universities are trailblazers and role models for other African universities. This project will use a mixed-methods approach to explore the extent to which the participation of women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and in leadership has been considered and mainstreamed into ARUA member universities’ policies and practices. It will also explore the success or failure of these policies in addressing the under-representation of women in STEM fields and in academic leadership positions.

The project will focus on three interlinked aspects: the institutional culture (the recruitment, retention, and inclusion of women in STEM); the STEM research environment (promotion of diversity in STEM research teams); and university leadership (the gathering of statistics on women in senior leadership and management positions and the preparation of women for such positions). The research team will analyze, distill, and share lessons learned and best practices with ARUA universities and with key stakeholders and policymakers in the African higher education sector through conferences/workshops, articles, policy briefs, media releases, and social media channels.

Project ID
Project Status
36 months
IDRC Officer
Katie Bryant
Total Funding
CA$ 225,000.00
South Africa
Foundations for Innovation
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Phyllis Kalele
Academy of Science of South Africa


Gender equality at African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) institutions

Gender equality at African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) institutions


The overall aim of the study was to examine the efforts and highlight the successes of African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) universities in tackling systemic barriers to gender equality, with a particular focus on women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields and women in university leadership. Specific objectives were to identify and evaluate gender-related institutional policies and structures, to gather statistics on the number of women in senior leadership and management positions at individual ARUA institutions, and to document lessons learned and best practices, and to share these widely.

Author(s): Diab, Roseanne D., Bulani, Muthise

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Language: English

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