Dr. Lerato Nellvecia Madike

It’s a jungle out there so always fight to be the queen because the only validation you need on who you are should come from you.

Country of origin

South Africa

Which company do you work for?

Lasec SA

What is your specific area of specialisation?

Biotechnology

How long have you been in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields?

12 years

As a woman in a male dominated industry, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

Being overlooked in the workplace for higher positions even though I was the most qualified and experienced all because I am a woman. I always let my work speak for itself in that way people tend to overlook my gender and focus on the quality of work I produce.

What inspired you to join this industry?

From a young age. I have always been inspired by science and the potential it holds to change the world. I wanted to be of those people that had the knowledge to study what I can and acquire the knowledge to do just that. And for me, that could only be achieved through studying towards a PhD and getting involved in different fields of research to cement myself in the world of science.

What changes, if any, have you seen in your field with regards to women in your field?

There has been a growing interest in the number of women-owned businesses using natural materials to produce novel products. There has also been an increase in the number of female PhD graduates.

How can we attract more women to consider a career in the STEM fields?

We have to show them that there is more than just being an academic, we have to hold seminars where career prospects are introduced early on in high school so that more women would have the knowledge and freedom to shape their paths based on the opportunities that are presented to them. Lack of knowledge on what is possible has made a lot of young women quit school especially with the rate of unemployed graduates. We also have to introduce the entrepreneurial aspect of the STEM field especially with the high unemployment in our country.

If you were to advise other young women starting their careers in the tech or within the STEM fields, what is the one thing you would say to them?

It’s a jungle out there so always fight to be the queen because the only validation you need on who you are should come from you.

When not working, what do you do for fun?

I bake, read, write poetry and short stories.

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