IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast 2024

27 Feb 2024 | By Roxanne Mohunlal
IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast 2024 - GWB tasty treats: cake
27 Feb 2024 | By Roxanne Mohunlal

The IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast is an event that happens every year on a single day in February in conjunction with the United Nations Day of Women and Girls in Science. This took place on Tuesday, 27 February 2024 with the theme “Catalysing Diversity in Science”. 

The Royal Society of Chemistry, South Africa (South) Local Section UCT Committee together with the Department of Chemistry, hosted an exciting breakfast within the Department of Chemistry. This was one of more than 400 GWB events that took place around the globe. This event was very well attended by staff and postgraduate students from Chemistry and H3D. Event organisers Dr Roxanne Mohunlal and Dr Samantha Douman, members of the CEM Marketing sub-committee emphasised the importance of bringing women together from different scientific disciplines to change mindsets, foster learning and inspiration, as well as to catalyse conversations that matter which was keeping in with the global theme.

The morning began with a fun icebreaker which was a modified form of charades that incorporated lab and general hobby-based activities as clues. Even though most of the attendees know each other, at times the most we see of each other is a fleeting hello when passing by in the corridors. This was a wonderful opportunity for people to explore and share their fun and creative side and encouraged new connections. When walking past the venue, one could attest to an exuberant atmosphere and energy filtering through the building.

Once everyone felt more energised, GWB attendees were inspired and motivated by a panel of four amazing women in science within UCT who shared their respective journeys, challenges, advice and their role in working towards catalysing diversity in science. Each of the speakers presented a short talk after which there was time for audience participation. 

Miss Leah Amod, PhD student within the Department of Chemistry, spoke about her experience as a woman of colour joining a prestigious research group and the strength and support, she gained from senior members of the group who shared these similarities. She also passionately shared the importance of staying true to who you are and being able to stand up for what you value most in life without compromising. Dr Jill Combrinck, Scientist in the Department of Paediatric Neurosurgery, spoke about the challenges one faces when having to play the many diverse roles expected of women with a focus on the importance of finding a healthy balance between family and research life. She also emphasised that we need to be clear and proactive about prioritising what’s important to each of us. Mrs Portia Johnston, Chief Technical Officer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, reflected on her experiences both from when she worked in industry and in her current role. She stressed the significance of being able to find your voice and use it for good. She also highlighted the very real concept of there still being a glass ceiling for women and how each of us can work together to shatter that glass ceiling by doing our best to pave the way for future women in science. Professor Susan Bourne, Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, took the audience through an enthralling journey where she shared what it was like to be the only female academic member of staff when she had first become a lecturer. She incorporated the challenges, lessons and blessings along the way. She shared a very grounding and realistic view of success, the importance of forming trustworthy connections with genuine people and learning to be strategic in the things we chose to focus on.

Overall, the panel of speakers were well balanced and covered different aspects that are common to most women in science. Each attendee found something that deeply resonated with each of them which created the opportunity to start important conversations as well as to pause and reflect. Professor David Gammon, member of the Local RSC Committee, presented each of the speakers with a certificate and small token of appreciation.

The festivities concluded with a wonderful social and networking session filled with scrumptious breakfast treats and soulful music.

Special thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Department of Chemistry, UCT for kindly sponsoring this event. Heartfelt thanks to Ms Deirdre Brooks for her creativity and flair in making this event special and to Mrs Laa-iqa Rylands for capturing these beautiful moments.