Ndoni Mcunu is the founder of non-profit organisation Black Women in Science, providing skills and capacity training to postgraduate black female scientists. She’s passionate about equality, women empowerment, education and empowering black people.
Currently in research and academia, she’s completing her PhD at Wits. Aside from her passion project, her focus is on climate change, and how to make farmers more resilient to the impacts of climate change and improve food production.
How to get into science
A great start is to have an interest in subjects such as biology, social development, science and maths. “Graduates would need to understand which institutes provide postgraduate programmes in environmental science, ecology, biology or related fields of science, [and] understand what percentage in their subjects would allow them to be selected into an honours program,” she says. So do your research before you jump in.
On completing your honours, Ndoni advises applying for a masters, then a PhD. “For funding opportunities, look at the National Research Foundation (NRF) and organisations like the Greenmatter Fellowship,” she says.
You’ll need to toughen up
The field of academia requires tough skin, says Ndoni. “Any academic work you submit will be commented on. That process can be daunting and [result in] self-reflection. But [it’s important] to understand is that the process is to improve your work and to build knowledge,” she says.
“The issue we have in the sciences and postgraduate research is the limited funding, the lack of mentorship and the lack of flexibility in the field to adjust to the female’s needs. Women then are constantly faced with having to do tradeoffs, such as career vs family, finances vs career. These difficulties often hinder career growth,” she says.
Ndoni’s leadership lessons
1/ “Learn to better manage and understand relationships (professional or personal).”
2/ “Emotional intelligence is harder to manage than most.”
3/ “Get it together! Start early and start now!”
4/ “There will never be a perfect time to start, or a time when you will be ready.”
5/ “Talk less about it and do more on it.”
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I miss public speaking at a conference with actual people attending 🥺! #COVID19 makes you appreciate things you took for granted . This was at the Science Forum South Africa Conference. Speaking about higher education and research for emerging researchers. @nstf_sa @dstgovzacsir
Read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
“This is a great book to understand the diagram of opportunity, timing and preparation,” says Ndoni.
How Ndoni practises self-care
“When I feel things are too much, I take time out and reflect on my goals. I speak to people who care and have better emotional intelligence than I do. Most importantly, I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself and my thoughts,” says Ndoni.
Connect with Ndoni
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I was so honoured to make a contribution to the Good Hope Documentary and be amongst leaders in South Africa sharing my brief opinion on South Africa , race , impacts of apartheid, segregation and democracy. Good Hope is a thought-provoking and uplifting feature-length documentary, exploring South Africa’s recent past, present and possible future. @good_hope_documentary Link to watch : goodhopedoc.com