Professor Glenda Gray among most visible scientist during Covid

A study has found that South African Medical Research Council president and CEO, professor Glenda Gray, was one of the most visible female scientist in South African media coverage during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other expert female voice sought after was Cherly Cohen, professor in epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand and co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The research was conducted by Marina Joubert; Lars Guenther, and Lili Rademan from the University of Stellenbosch and published in a special Covid-19-themed issue of the South African Journal of Science.


However, their findings prove that male academics dominate when it comes to media quotes.

“Women accounted for only 30% of quoted professors, even though 2019 data show that, across all higher education institutions in South Africa, 48% of all staff responsible for instruction and research were women.

“These findings echo what has been reported globally about women experts’ voices in Covid-19 coverage.”

The research stated that by underplaying a women’s expertise, the media limits their power and influence.

“Journalists may unwittingly perpetuate the notion that men are the only experts worth listening to. This also limits the visibility of women in science as role models and dampens young women’s professional aspirations if they’re considering becoming scientists.”

The researchers said, however, that they had hope that in SA especially this skewed view would change.


“In South Africa, a non-profit company, Quote This Woman+, is growing a database of female experts to promote the inclusion of women’s voices in the mass media.

The association of South African Women in Science and Engineering aims to strengthen the role of women in science and engineering in South Africa. It also seeks to raise the profile of women scientists and engineers.

“During Women’s Month in August, the Department of Science and Innovation organises events to celebrate and profile female scientists. One of the key initiatives is the South African Women in Science Awards.”

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