The Science Of Moving Forward
Fairlady|June 2018

Scientist Ndoni Mcunu plans on getting more women into the lab – and South Africa on the map.

Shireen Fisher
Nine years into my research and academic career, one of the most common questions I get from family and friends is: “Will she ever finish studying?”’ says Ndoni Mcunu. She’s one of very few black women in South Africa who not only chose to go into the sciences but who has further developed her expertise.

Currently working towards her PhD on climate change and food production at Wits Global Change Institute, Ndoni’s concern about the lack of black women in science prompted her and a friend, Mantombi Ngoloyi (herself pursuing a PhD at Toulouse University), to establish the non-profit organisation Black Women in Science (BWIS) in 2016 in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology.

‘I had the advantage of having strong role models and extra lessons,’ Ndoni says. ‘But what if you don’t have that? My parents introduced me to things many people wouldn’t have been exposed to at that age.’

Ndoni’s family has a strong bent towards the sciences: her father is a computer scientist and her mother, now a campus manager, was a teacher; her uncle is a medical doctor, her aunt a mathematical scientist and her grandfather had a Bachelor’s degree in science. The only girl in her nuclear family, encouragement also came from her brothers.

‘They tried to instill in me that I could do anything I wanted to, on my own. They’d always tell me, “It’s not a man’s world – it’s YOUR world. You can actually make a change.”’

Interestingly, says Ndoni, she still struggled with maths and science in high school.

‘I managed because I had extra tuition, but that requires money and support. That’s why I believe so strongly in becoming a support system for people who don’t have one. I have the capacity to give back.’

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAIRLADYView All

How to Survive the Feast-Or Famine Cycle

It’s empowering to have more than one income stream, but there is a downside: it’s easy to splurge when money is plentiful, but what about the lean months? Three self-starters share their tips for keeping an even keel through good and bad.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Kaley's Comet

Kaley Cuoco was so beguiling as Penny on The Big Bang Theory that she soon became one of the highest paid actors in television. With HBO’s comedic thriller series The Flight Attendant, she entered exciting, slightly sinister new territory – but it proved her range as an actress and cemented her broad-based appeal.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Let the Music Play

My dad died days before the global lockdown. While I was trapped within four walls, music and dancing gave me reason to smile again.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

How to Make Your Own Luck

Luck isn’t easy to measure or study, but those who have managed to do it discovered it’s not the work of fate – it’s a skill you can cultivate and improve. So, how do you go about it?

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Local Flavour

Stocking up your pantry? These artisanal foods are guaranteed to ignite the senses of home chefs everywhere. Meet the foodies behind two of South Africa’s tastiest brands.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Comfort of Ritual

Rituals imbue our lives with depth and meaning. And in times of uncertainty, they are even more important because they create a sense of grounding.

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Get Your Shine Back!

When the last of the summer heat is over, it’s important to take time to reverse any hair damage caused by sun and sea water.

5 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Rise of the Personal Shopper

It’s not a new concept, but the number of people who make a living from sourcing goods on behalf of clients is on the rise. We talked to three personal shoppers to find out what it takes.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Back to the Wild

Imagine camping in the Little Karoo… a billion stars above you, the ancient desert beneath, the insistent flapping of your canvas tent in the cold night air. Then banish all the rustic images this conjures up – because Dwyka Tented Lodge will confound all your expectations.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

A Good (Mo) Hair Day

"Beauty Mokgwamme had other dreams, but circumstances took her exactly where she was meant to be."

3 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022