Professor Kebongile Mokwena of the Sefako Makagtho Health Sciences University in Pretoria delivered an inspirational presentation to aspirant academics during a UKZN Women in Leadership and Leverage Committee (WILL) gathering.
WILL is a committee of female academics within UKZN’s College of Health Sciences dedicated and committed to supporting junior academics in realising their goals of becoming successful academics and/or scientists.
Mokwena started her presentation by explaining how she was raised by parents who were factory workers wanting their children to get a good education and have options in terms of a career.
Mokwena encouraged aspirant academics to not let their past determine their future. ‘I knew in my heart that I wanted to become a doctor.’
She spoke about the theory of gender and power in relation to women in the working environment.
‘Women are expected to live double lives in the sense that they are expected to work professionally and when they come home, they are expected to perform their household duties and to take care of the family.’
She said she was a mother, a wife, a sister, an aunt and a professor - and encouraged all women in the room to adopt a similar approach.
Women were going to face problems in the workplace such as discrimination and academic sabotage based on their gender. ‘I became stronger through the negative situations I faced - they helped me become a better academic and mentor.’
Mokwena said although women faced social expectations and discrimination at home and in the workplace they should not compare themselves to men as that would end in disaster. ‘Marriage, pregnancy and children will come but they should not distract you rather they should drive you to want to work harder and achieve your personal goals.’