Women in academia? The silent truth of top-performing female students no one talks about —my reflections from Africa. (In series)

Women in academia? The silent truth of top-performing female students no one talks about —my reflections from Africa. (In series)
Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

(Episode 1 - Introductory Post)

The leaky-pipeline phenomenon facing women in academia (common in STEM and quantitative subjects like economics) is often explained by mainstream challenges such as family obligations, lack of support and mentorship, lack of funding to pursue terminal degrees and discrimination. We often propose solutions based on these identified challenges with the hope that, gradually, the proposed solutions will be adopted by stakeholders, and we can finally close the gender gap and the existing leaky pipeline in academia, for that matter. This has been the approach of many articles tackling gender-gap in academia. My viewpoint on Strategies for Advancing African Women in Academia, published last year by the Brookings Institution, is no exception and follows a similar approach.

Based on personal reflections and experiences from other colleagues during my student years in Africa, I am more than convinced that previous articles only reflect half of the issues facing women in academia while the other half is untold.  In the coming weeks, I will be bringing to your doorsteps an undiluted account and a more representative narrative pushing top-performing females out of academia that no one dares to talk about, a side emanating from my 12 years of studying economics as an undergraduate, master's, and Ph.D. student across various African countries. A side that is not peculiar to me but resonates with many talented women I met along my academic journey - unfortunately, many fell off due to these untold challenges. The side of the narrative you will barely hear or see in an article because speaking about it comes with many discomforts. Those who experienced it either left the academy, or those who stayed found a way to live through it silently. The fear of being judged, name-called, or stigmatized for speaking up additionally turned the experience into a cross for many top-performing females to carry.

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This is a meaningful conversation that needs to be brought to the limelight. As I write this, I believe a talented young lady striving for success somewhere in the motherland may be going through a similar ordeal!  Hopefully, my post won't be the first and last voice on this topic, but many more will join the cause to help lessen the silent battles women have to endure in our academic institutions in Africa.

As the saying goes, a problem shared is half-solved; together, let's keep the conversation alive!                                                                                                                      

The Economist With Many Interests