The School of Social Sciences at the Pietermaritzburg campus hosted a seminar on “Women in Academia: Gendered Challenges, Gendered Solutions” presented by Professor Bandana Purkayastha from the University of Connecticut, USA.
Purkayastha, who is a Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, shared her personal experiences in academia from a teaching, research and support perspective.
Adopting a positive approach, Purkayastha spoke about challenges she has encountered as a female academic and how she overcame them. Her overall constructive and optimistic outlook inspired guests, staff and students who attended the seminar.
Her insight and knowledge into gendered experiences in academia spurred a discussion by members of the audience on their own personal experiences. The seminar became a forum of information sharing and support.
Audience members realised that challenges experienced by women in academia in the United States were no different to challenges experienced by women in South Africa. Other notable areas of discussion were the so-called “old boys’ network” as well as academic bullying.
Offering advice to the audience, Purkayastha said, ‘At a very young age I learned to value difference, so now it’s a must to honour people in all their diversity and to effect social change so that we can all live in a just world,’ she said.
Speaking after the seminar, Purkayastha said she enjoyed sharing her personal experiences as well as reflecting on what she could have done differently. ‘I very much appreciated the informal roundtable setup of this session and found it to be a great way to keep participants integrated in the discussion,’ she said.