A conversation with Dr. Coura Balde

Through the month of March, we hope to showcase the incredible women academic directors from AIMS centres across the continent. We celebrate the talent, dedication, and creativity of the women who are driving innovation and excellence in mathematical sciences education in Africa. We invite you to join us on this journey of discovery, as we celebrate the achievements of these remarkable women and explore the exciting possibilities for the future of mathematics and science education in Africa

  1. What inspired you to become an academic director, and what challenges did you face along the way?

The desire to assist others in attaining their aspirations and maximizing their potential has been my driving force in pursuing a career as an academic director. However, the most significant obstacle I have encountered in this role is related to self-assurance in making decisions.

2. How do you balance the demands of your role as an academic director with your personal life?

The role of an academic director is highly demanding, and finding a balance between professional responsibilities and personal life can be challenging. As a married academic director with two four-year-old children, I make a conscious effort to effectively manage my time by prioritizing urgent tasks during office hours. Additionally, I do not shy away from seeking support from my family at home.

3. What advice would you give to young women who aspire to leadership roles in academia?

To those women, I would say, “keep pushing and do not listen to that voice that belittles you and tells you that it is impossible for a woman to succeed in this position.”

4. How do you work to promote gender equality and diversity in your department or institution?

At AIMS Senegal, we place a great emphasis on gender inclusion and strongly encourage teamwork. As part of this initiative, we intentionally mix boys and girls to collaborate on projects together. By doing so, we aim to create a more inclusive environment where everyone has an opportunity to contribute and learn from each other.

5. What initiatives have you implemented or supported to address issues facing women in academia, such as the gender pay gap or lack of representation in leadership positions?

As a member of the Senegalese Women in Mathematical Sciences Association (SWMA), we organize various activities to encourage academic institutions to hire more women in leadership positions. We strongly believe that for this to occur, women need to have confidence in themselves. Therefore, since last year, we have initiated what we call the “Mentoring Day for Women in Graduate Studies.” The objective of this event is to challenge women to tackle challenging research topics in mathematics and to exceed their abilities, allowing them to discover their true potential.

6. How do you see the future of women in academia and what steps do you believe need to be taken to achieve greater gender equality and diversity?

Currently, there are numerous women working in academia, and it is widely anticipated that this trend will continue to grow in the future. However, in order to promote greater gender equality and diversity, it is essential to have more women in leadership positions. This is because women possess a unique understanding of the needs and challenges faced by other women.