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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Agent Zee - Role modelling agency by women in science

Robert Inglis  

Themes: Science communication in a digital age, Gender and diversity in science communication, Social networks for science communication, Evaluating public communication of science and technology While relatively good success has been achieved in South Africa regarding increasing the number of women entering scientific fields of study, the throughput to postgraduate study and careers for women in science remains low. Census data indicates that only 11,3% of women with post-school education in South Africa have careers in the areas of natural sciences, computer sciences and engineering. This problem is not unique to South Africa. The Agent Zee role-modelling project showcases careers and opportunities for African women in science, targeting undergraduate science students through innovative media channels. The Agent Zee Project draws on the power of identification and personal interaction with an African "woman in science", an avatar/personality by the name of Zinhle wa Africa. Zinhle is a student at an institute of higher education. When Zinhle is confronted with a problem that she does not know how to solve her alter-ego persona (Agent Zee) takes over and she boldly ventures into the unknown in the role of the scientist. Agent Zee exists in a number of communication spaces, as a print and online comic (graphic novel) about her adventures, as a twitter and facebook personality (commenting on issues and highlighting opportunities for women in science) and in the role of a "reporter" - hosting print and audio interviews with women role models. The advent of digital social media has allowed for increased and immediate learning about the behaviours of the audience as they seek and are exposed to opportunities in science and technology. This has created a space in which strategies for reaching this audience can be refined - hence creating opportunities for monitoring and evaluating the impact of interventions. www.agentzee.org

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