Heritors Labs Limited, a Web 3.0 company and research and innovation services hub, has hosted an interactive and experience-sharing session for women in innovation and research.
The one-day event dubbed, “Women in Innovation and Research Conclave (WIRC 2023)” was held under the theme, “Breaking Barriers, Empowering Women, and Driving Ownership: Putting Women at the Core of the Research and Innovation Ecosystem”.
The conclave was in line with the company’s gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) activities to strengthen the capacity and participation of women in the country’s research and innovation ecosystem.
Funded and supported by the Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (RISA) Fund, the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and UKAID, the session was to discuss the role of women in research and innovation, identify pertinent challenges and discuss workable strategies to deepen women’s contribution to research for national development.
Mr Johnson Singir from the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), who opened the event, indicated in his brief speech that female researchers face prejudice and barriers to career advancement and innovative ideas.
He intimated that WIRC 2023 was a significant initiative because it provides the avenue to identify and address barriers women faced in the research and innovation ecosystem while forming new networks and partnerships.
He said this will go a long way to impact how society appreciates the contribution of women in the STIR ecosystem whilst deepening understanding and support for women in research and innovation.
Chief Executive Officer of Heritors Labs Ltd., Mr Derrydean Dadzie, shed more light on the purpose of the gathering, which was to convene leading women researchers and innovators to tell their stories, successes and challenges whilst creating the platform for women to connect, collaborate, and forge lasting partnerships that will shape the trajectory of research and innovation in Ghana and beyond.
Referencing a 2021 UNESCO report which pegs the percentage of female researchers in Ghana at 26 per cent and below the global average of 33.8 percent, he exposed the urgent need for increased investments in the fields of science alongside efforts towards bridging the gender gap.
To him, gender disparity and the underrepresentation of women are not only a matter of social justice but a missed opportunity for unlocking the full potential of innovation in the Ghanaian research and innovation community.
Mr. Dadzie encouraged women in research and innovation to actively engage, share insights, challenge the status quo , and collectively envision an ecosystem fostering diversity, collaboration, and equal opportunities.
A key highlight of the programme was the panel discussion session moderated by Ohemaa Adjei Andoh on the theme “Establishing robust structures to create sustainable pathways to advance the role and contribution of women in the research and innovation ecosystem”.
The panel comprised Prof. Mrs Marian Dorcas Quian, Prof. Marian Asantewah Nkansah, and Dr Mrs Trinity Tagbor.
The session explored critical issues, such as the importance of mentorship across the research and innovation ecosystem for aspiring young female researchers.
Panellists identified the need for awareness creation, access to funding and policies that promote inclusion in the research and innovation space and the specific actions that women researchers and innovators could leverage to get the right level of support for their works as compared to their male counterparts.
There was also a knowledge and experience-sharing session highlighting the journey of seasoned women in Ghana’s research and innovation space, drawn from various institutions under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Six women researchers and innovators from CSIR-Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute, CSIR-Animal Research Institute, CSIR-Food Research Institute and CSIR-Institute of Industrial Research shared the impact of their works at their institutes.
In her keynote presentation, Prof. Marian Asantewah Nkansah, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), emphasised that women are faced with bias and stereotypes in Ghana’s research and innovation ecosystem with limited availability, access to funding and resources as well as the lack of mentorship and networking opportunities.
To overcome these challenges, Prof. Nkansah suggested the promotion of gender equality and inclusion in STEM education, providing mentorship and leadership training programs, creating supportive policies and funding opportunities and fostering collaboration and networking platforms.
With women making up over 50 per cent of Ghana’s population, she believed that neglecting or disregarding the potential contribution of women researchers and innovators towards the country’s common good was intentional.
Country Technical Lead for the RISA Fund, Mr Gameli Adzaho, highlighted that cultural issues and gender-related concerns limit the ability of women researchers and innovators to reach their full potential, despite the WIRC programme having highlighted the excellent works and innovations of women in science and innovation.
He encouraged the women researchers and innovators to continue blazing the trail and to serve as mentors to aspiring young women as we collectively work to address issues around policy.
Mr Adzaho said one key ecosystem strengthening goal of the RISA Fund was to ensure that that is gender and equity in the research and innovation landscape hence the need to support the WIRC initiative whilst ensuring that awardees of the Fund embed gender equality and social inclusion practices in all aspects of their work.
WIRC 2023 participants were encouraged to build new networks and forge stronger collaborations to ensure the full participation of women in the research and innovation process, especially considering that women make up the bunch of the population.