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Understanding intersecting gender inequities in academic scientific research career progression in sub-Saharan Africa

Millicent L. Liani, Isaac K. Nyamongo, Rachel Tolhurst


The slow progression and under-representation of women in senior scientific career positions is a well-known and persistent global problem, especially among university-based academics, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). To inform action for change, we need to go beyond numerical evidence of inequalities to understanding the underlying social, cultural and institutional drivers and processes producing gender inequities in science careers. This requires a theoretically rigorous gender analysis framework that is relevant to SSA and sufficiently accounts for variations among both women and men. Since no such framework is available, we conducted a literature review of emerging theories and empirical evidence on the dimensions of and reasons for the prevailing gender inequities in higher education institutions in SSA. Based on this, we propose an integrated conceptual framework, identify available empirical findings to support it and develop a preliminary explanation of observed inequities. Our findings demonstrate that women’s (lack of) progression in academic/scientific research careers is shaped by intersections between gender roles and social power relations of gender within the family, wider society and academic institutions themselves. We argue that this integrated model provides implications for theory, practice at institutional and policy level, and future research. 


Gender inequity; academic scientific career progression; higher education institutions; sub-Saharan Africa; gender analysis framework; intersectionality

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