#WomenofUP: ‘Organisations should create conditions where women are listened to’ – UP Humanities Deputy Dean

Posted on August 26, 2021

“Career women still face numerous challenges, such having the predominant responsibility of raising children, pressured routines that leave little time to network and build social capital, and constantly having to fight against unconscious bias and patriarchal norms,” says Professor Sandy Africa, Deputy Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria (UP) “A supportive institutional culture can go a long way to creating the conditions for women to be the best they can be in their careers.”

Prof Africa, who teaches Political Sciences with a focus on security studies, says that many women are involved in some of the key areas that security studies explores: the military, policing, peacebuilding, conflict resolution and humanitarian work.

In fact, the professor herself was recently appointed to chair an expert panel that is reviewing the security response to the recent lawlessness seen in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. The panel is also tasked with recommending actions to avoid a repeat of these incidents. This is an example of how a discipline like security studies can be useful in looking at complex issues of insecurity and conflict.

Prof Africa developed a love for education at a young age. “I grew up in Durban and both my parents were teachers; they emphasised the importance of education. In addition to being a teacher, my mother was also the school librarian and I remember always being surrounded by books. I took particular interest in books about African history.”

Her interest in education continued to blossom as time passed. “I chose my career path because I have always been ‘bookish’,” she said. “Additionally, I’ve always been interested in people and justice, so I wanted a career that includes all those factors.”

Although Prof Africa is in a senior position, she feels that more can be done to ensure that women take up leadership roles. “Organisations should invest in getting more women in leadership roles. They should create conditions where women are listened to, and put structures in place that allow women to be more involved in decision-making and influencing the agenda. They should also be more flexible in allowing women to participate more freely – working from home, family support such as childcare arrangements and flexible hours are some options that can be explored. At the same time, children and men need to be socialised differently so that the unfair expectations of women are challenged”.

- Author Mecayla Maseka

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