25 August 2021 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Supplied
Emmie Chiyindiko is a scientist who is also interested in educational research.

Multi-award-winning science communicator, Emmie Chiyindiko, is a Chemistry PhD research student at the University of Free State (UFS), whose work has been featured in numerous media publications, including Forbes Science, News24, and the Sunday Times. When she isn’t hovering over experiments, Chiyindiko is also a part-time Mathematics lecturer at the Central University of Technology, and speaker and event facilitator of STEM community engagement programmes for organisations such as the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).

“The world is waiting for what YOU have to offer. Only your unique set of skills and view of the world can deliver it. You will find yourself in rooms with smart, highly qualified, and enigmatic people; remember, you deserve to be there.

Breathe, relax, and network. You will strive and succeed.” These are the words that Chiyindiko lives by and would instil in her 15-year-old self.

Where it all started

“My mother is the wisest and most intelligent woman I know, but she never made it into formal high school education.” Chiyindiko went on to explain that boys took precedence over girls in her family’s education budget. Her grandfather’s only expectation of his daughters was for them to be able to read and write a letter; thereafter, he would take them out of school.

Inspired by her mother, who despite the odds stacked up against her, became as successful as one possibly could after being denied the opportunity to continue with school because of her gender, Chiyindiko is determined to climb as high as she can to dominate, inspire, and lead in science. 

Challenges faced by women in the 21st century 

According to Chiyindiko, many of the new emerging science and technology breakthroughs that resulted in the manufacture of various products we use daily, have been developed with input from women – even though they make up less than 30% of the world’s researchers. “Adding diversity to STEM occupations results in increased creativity and innovation, fuelled by different perspectives,” she noted. Furthermore, the restrictive modern hiring processes that require women to disclose information about their personal lives, including plans to have children, increase hiring bias, making it difficult for women to be considered for high-level occupations to make valuable and inclusive contributions to society – which needs to be addressed, explained Chiyindiko.

“Every woman is a woman of impact in the never-ending quest to become our best selves. When you’re faced with life’s daily choices, choose leadership, and remember that no one can do it alone,” is what she believes makes her a woman of quality, impact, and care. At the core of that, Chiyindiko believes that her willingness to speak her truth and be heard, even if her message may not neatly align with the status quo or form part of a popular opinion, is why she would encourage other women to live from the well of their authentic selves.

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