The 11th of February marks an International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGS). This year’s theme was “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”. The IDWGS aims to raise awareness about the importance of celebrating women’s excellence in science. It seeks to further remind the international community that science and gender equality have to advance hand-in-hand to address major global challenges and achieve all the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda (UNESCO, 2021). To celebrate this special day, AIMS House of Science hosted its first webinar for the year, Apres Lunch with mathematical scientist.
Since the day was about the celebration of women and girls in science, we hosted Ms Mmabatho Mokiti, a dynamic and inspirational mathematician who turned an impact entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Mathemaniacs in South Africa. Mathemaniacs is a STEM corporate social investment (CSI) and monitoring and evaluation consulting agency that designs and implements CSI strategies for corporates to invest in sustainable STEM education in rural and disadvantaged areas. She shared her work and the challenges she faced as an African female mathematician in the world of entrepreneurship as well as what inspires her about a career in entrepreneurship.
Ms Mokiti highlighted the key aspects of thriving in the industry. Such aspects include analytical and critical thinking, frequent interaction with relevant people and improved emotional quotient. She further emphasized the importance of focusing on personal development and career guidance needs for students in Mathematical Sciences since a lot of graduates’ experience confusion when it comes to deciding on which career path to pursue with their degrees.
It is our duty to mentor the next generation of upcoming men and women who want to get into the science space,” she said.
Moreover, she encouraged students to take advantage of online seminars that are available during the COVID-19 era. She urged them to make connections and use them to engage with experts in their field of interest.
As the theme of the year’s IDWGS was “Women scientist at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”, Ms Mokiti’s message to the participants of the session was that
“It’s everyone’s duty to join the fight against COVID-19. You may not come up with a cure, but you can come up with a solution to the problems that people face during this pandemic”.
When further asked what the experiences of different gender (male & female) in terms of doing academic work and/or research from home amid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Mokiti’s suggested that
“We need to focus on the mental wellbeing of both male and females during this time. Many people, have never had to go work from home or consult with their supervisor online. A session needs to be done on how one can invest in their mental health during this time”.
The webinar’s feedback from the participants was positive. One participant commented on the impact of the webinar:
“The biggest problem faced today in Africa by our education system is non-correlation between school knowledge and the needs of society. This webinar helped me to understand that this issue can be fixed by acquiring entrepreneurial spirit and professional skills besides academic knowledge. Furthermore, Mathematician is a Problem Solver and to be this kind of mathematician, I have to study mathematics in a way to meet the needs of our society.”