UKZN’s Human Resources Division hosted a leadership workshop for women in academia that brought together women from different disciplines to share their experiences, learn from one another and feel empowered.
Executive Director: Human Resources, Dr Siphelele Zulu reflected on how important it is for the University to empower women and encouraged more women to motivate one another. ‘We need to break down the “only woman” syndrome,’ said Zulu.
Guest speaker, Professor Colleen Downs from the School of Life Sciences and SARChi Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity, reflected on her journey in academia which included attaining her PhD in 1990 from the former University of Natal; and working as a lecturer from 1993; senior lecturer from 1998; and Associate Professor from 2003. She encouraged more women to stay in the field of academia as only a few do after postgraduate studies. ‘What I want is to keep you in academia and research, but I don’t want to preach to you because one shoe does not fit all,’ said Downs.
She commented on the different phases she went through in her career and the challenges she faced in teaching, postgraduate student supervision, and research while juggling these responsibilities with her personal life as a wife and mother. ‘Academia is filled with a lot of pressure to tick all the right boxes, but we need to be able to define success for ourselves if we want to have peace, joy and fulfilment,’ she said.
Thanking Downs, Director: Human Resource Development, Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu commented, ‘I believe women don’t need empowerment because there are a lot of women doing greats things; they just need a platform to showcase their achievements and inspire other women to do the same.’
Words: Hlengiwe Precious Khwela
Photograph: Albert Hirasen