Dear members of the UCT community
As we mark this International Women’s Day, I wish to commend the great strides the University of Cape Town (UCT) has made, and also acknowledge the efforts the university is currently undertaking to ensure more women take on leadership roles within business, research, the Cape Town community, and most recently local government.
The steps required to achieve a balanced, fair and equal world are greater than any individual. From a young age we are all exposed to difference. We are subtly swayed toward gender roles before we are able to interrogate and discover our own unique capabilities and dreams.
To paint a picture: at a primary and secondary school level, young girls and boys take up mathematics and science in roughly equal numbers. But at a tertiary level, for every ten men graduating in engineering, manufacturing and construction, there are only three women. And this is similar for nearly every science and engineering field. By the time we reach the workplace, there are over thirty-thousand engineering graduates registered to the South African Engineering Council, but only 3% are women engineering professionals. And in the last 121 years of the Nobel Foundation, only 11 women have received the Nobel Prize for their research in chemistry and physics fields.
There is a stark difference between what people think they can do, and what they actually can accomplish. But we can change this.
The first woman to receive a Nobel Prize for science was Marie Curie in 1903. She was awarded the prize with her husband, and she was empowered by her father who had encouraged her education. She went on to become the first person to receive a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields – first in Physics and then in Chemistry eight years later – and her daughter won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making them the first and only to date women and daughter to win a Nobel.
The lives of women such as Marie Curie and others, who have shattered through glass ceilings, teach us that the arena of opportunities for women are expansive and ever growing.
Today, and every other day, I urge you to empower, inspire and uplift one another. The good that we have seen accomplished in our history is the goodness we must work together to recreate and normalise. Together with you, I look forward to witnessing this change, in our lifetime, where our leadership is representative, and our perceptions of others are not limited by hidden bias.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe
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