Global networking: Empowering Women in Chemistry

18 Feb 2019 - 11:30

Participants in the Stellenbosch Global Networking Event.

About forty women and one man gathered at the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens on 12 February for an informal breakfast which is part of a global initiative for empowering women in Chemistry. Participants were from the University of Cape Town, University of Stellenbosch and Cape Peninsula University of Technology.  

The Global Women’s Breakfast was designed to assist women chemists to expand their network of contacts, both locally and internationally. Women at different stages of their individual careers were encouraged to inform each other about their career progress, and together explore opportunities, in professional development and in research or teaching horizons. Organisations of all types, e.g., universities, companies, national chemistry societies, government laboratories, and other scientific organisations, as well as individual groups of chemists, were invited to participate. The world map highlights locations that participated in this event. The first breakfasts began in New Zealand at approximately 07:00 local time, initiating a global hand wave around the world ending in Hawaii.

Margaret Blackie (University of Stellenbosch) opened the event by outlining the purpose of gathering:  to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women in Chemistry.  She explained that this global event was intended to celebrate the centennial of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, as well as the 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table.  The participants joined some 200 breakfasts taking place around the world, starting in New Zealand and moving west with the time zones.  The event was broadcast on twitter using #IUPAC100 and #GlobalBreakfast (with this event's handle being @RSC-za)

Panel discussion

Professor Susan Bourne, Dr Cesarina Edmonds-Smith (both University of Cape Town) and Seanette Wilson (Biovac Institute) had been invited to form a panel for discussion, selected because each is at a different career stage and each had followed different career paths.  PhD students Bella Claassens (Stellenbosch) and Junia Malapile  (CPUT) led the way in posing questions to members of the panel, and facilitated discussion with the audience.  Topics covered included leadership, managing work/life balance, raising children while building a career, finding your strengths and a number of others. 

Video link to Leipzig participants

Shortly before 10h30, a video link was established with their counterparts in Leipzig, Germany, who were beginning their breakfast as the Cape Town chapter's ended.