Female scientists seek enabling environment in the CGIAR
Female scientists play an essential role at the forefront of CGIAR’s mission to deliver science and innovation that advance the transformation of food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis. Female scientists, representing 29% of the CGIAR workforce, power its innovation but still require more support to thrive. This led to the creation of Women in Research and Science (WIRES), a new employee-led resource group (ERG) that aims to build an enabling environment to empower women scientists across CGIAR.
On 21 January, the WIRES platform was launched in a virtual seminar themed “Powering One CGIAR’s innovation through diversity.” The discussion featured five expert speakers focused on empowering women in research and science at CGIAR workplaces worldwide.
WIRES is one of three new ERGs established under CGIAR’s gender, diversity, and inclusion (GDI) Framework. The ERG was founded by women scientists from across the CGIAR centers, including IITA scientists Elizabeth Parkes, HarvestPlus Cassava Breeder, and Gundula Fischer, Social Scientist and Gender Expert.
The group is dedicated to championing and supporting women. The group is open to any employee who is ready to support an increase in visibility for women research and science professionals by ensuring that their voices are heard, and contributions are recognized. WIRES aims to connect and inspire its members by providing tools and shared knowledge that supports professional development. This will be done by organizing and sponsoring events and activities that build workplace relationships and strengthening networks and alliances across CGIAR.
Agathe Diama, Head of Regional Information and Smart Food Coordinator at ICRISAT, facilitated the session. Excited about the launch and plans for the network, she stated that men are also encouraged to be part of the group, as it is not open to women alone.
Fiona Bourdin, CGIAR Senior Adviser on Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion, gave an overview of ERGs. Bourdin stated that their role is to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace, one of WIRES’s goals. “ERGS encourage great staff engagement, which leads to improved motivation, morale, and innovation in the workplace,” she said.
Technical Program Manager of the Global Maize Program at CYMMYT and one of the founding members of this ERG, Aparna Das, highlighted the mission and goal of WIRES. Das said that WIRES promotes women’s interests and enhances communication, research collaboration, and career mentoring among all members. “Our members will be expected to promote inclusiveness in the workplace, motivate colleagues through wider information about women in research and science, contribute to the mission of WIRES, and help people access ideas that inspire change and benefit individuals, families, and communities.”
In a panel discussion anchored by South Africa Country Representative of IWMI and a WIRES member Inga Jacobs-Mata, she asked speakers to share their journey and lessons learned as women scientists. Alice Ruhweza, Africa Region Director for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), stated that over the years, she has learned to put her values first in everything and then explore how to bring those values to the workplace. “Be visible, accept the vulnerability that comes with being visible, and be optimistic,” she added. Another speaker, Chin Yee Chan, Research Fellow at WorldFish, stated that she learned never to give up but to keep learning to extend the research horizon by exploring research options. “There are always challenges, but if we take it step by step and never give up, it will be a rewarding journey,” she added.
The speakers also highlighted the challenges facing women in R4D and their hope for CGIAR in the future. Claudia Sadoff, Convener, and Managing Director of Research Delivery and Impact, for the One CGIAR Executive Management Team, mentioned her hope for CGIAR to become a space where women gain recognition, not only in research and science but generally. In the same light, Safaa Kumari, Head of Seed Health Lab/Plant Virologist at ICARDA, advised the CGIAR leadership to create a comprehensive workplace for women scientists and researchers.
Concluding the seminar, Das encouraged both men and women to be part of the group. “We welcome and encourage all of you to join WIRES; let’s build this team together,” she said.