According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO), women make up 30% of researchers globally, leaving most of research work to men.
Although in some countries like Bolivia women make up 63% of the researchers, in some other countries, for example France and Ethiopia, female researchers represent 26% and 8% respectively, indicating a huge gender gap.
While a growing number of women enroll in universities, UNESCO says that many opt out at the highest levels required for a research career, which significantly lowers the number of women pursuing research as a career compared to men.
According to the Executive Director of the Institute of the Policy Analysis and Research(IPAR-Rwanda), Ms. Eugenia Kayitesi, research work is very demanding and this partly explains why fewer women pursue it as a career.
Being at the helm of coordinating research activities and ensuring production of timely and quality research work is quite challenging for Executive Directors of Research Institutes and requires a balancing act.
As the role of women in development continues to be recognized, Ms. Kayitesi says that it is important to reflect on their role in research.
In Rwanda, says Ms. Kayitesi, the number of women doing research as a career is still very small.
Although there are no statistics to show the width of gender gap in research in Rwanda, most senior positions in research organisations are still occupied by men.
Taking an example of IPAR-Rwanda, Ms. Kayitesi points out that the level of research assistants which is the entry level for career researchers is dominated by female researchers.
However, as you move up in the higher levels to research fellows and senior research fellows with more experience and higher qualifications, women researchers begin to drop significantly and all positions are occupied by men.
Ms. Kayitesi encourages young women to develop passion for research and join it as a career to contribute to knowledge production that informs national development despite the demanding nature of research work.
She further calls upon both public and private institutions to build research capacities for young women researchers and incentivize them to pursue further studies at the level of PhD. This will give them confidence and passion for research.
As the country designs and implements national development policies, Ms. Kayitesi says that the need for an increased number of Rwandan researchers both male and female becomes paramount.