Afaf Gadalla From Egypt

My Road to Professorship

I am proud to be a physics professor at one of the first Egyptian Universities located at the South of Egypt, where people have different culture from the north with respect to women. In spite of all the associated difficulties, I proved myself as a lecturer, researcher, professor and a prominent women’s leader. I engaged in developing my University and the surrounding society by advocating, advising and attracting more girls to continue learning.

I live in a society that gives preference to male children and showers them with privileges’ that are usually denied to girls. In this society, girls are always looked down upon, maltreated and given a lower status within the family and society.

Recent studies proved that girls have excellent educational potentials and mental abilities that have been wasted thoughout the years.

Education is a basic human right, which brings about change. It lays the foundation-stone for freedom and democracy. It is one of the main factors in economic and social development.

However, a realistic view indicates great differences between what international treaties call for, and what is actually happening in the society. In 3rd world countries (like most of the Middle East) almost 130 million children are denied their right to education. Girls make up two thirds of this number (they are illiterate). Regarding the general status of girls, there exists an educational gender gap of about 20% between boys and girls. The girls are forced to stay at home because of economic and social considerations, and the presence of accepted social beliefs that a girl’s final destination is home, marriage and bearing children.

Determining Factors

Egyptian laws declared equal opportunities and affirmative action for both sexes in education. It is important to point out that the numbers of women graduated in the late sixties as Science Majors are twice those who graduated some decades earlier. While girls are more likely to choose disciplines from the humanities or arts rather than Sciences, statistical analysis shows that they are just as successful as their male colleagues in all subjects.

Recently, the number of female students entering university almost equals the number of male students. Never the less, their chance of employment at the university after their first degree is a factor of 2 lower than that of their male colleagues in all disciplines. Even fields with 80% female student have less than 20% female professors.

Why do we not have more women scientists?

Among the major problems professional women – especially natural scientists – face are:

  • Conflict of values between family and professional life, “women have two responsibilities”
  • Isolation: Lack of discussion with supervisors, for exchange of experience, knowledge and advice.
  • Assessment of excellency criteria based on a male system of values
  • Difficulties of “dual career couples”.

In spite of all the above negative conditions encountered by women in my society that would discourage me from continuing my education, I challenged that and shaped my future to become a good person and scientist. Many thanks are due to my mother who played a great role in those successes.

The following are the main steps showing how I became a professor:

  • 1944 born in Upper Egypt.
  • 1950/61 elementary and High school (Girls’ school), Sohag City, Egypt.
  • 1961/73 Assiut University, B. Sc., M. Sc. and Ph.D.( in Solid State Physics)
  • 1973/75 Post-Doctoral Research, Max-Planck- Institute. Stuttgart, Germany
  • 1975/77 Associate Professor, Assiut University
  • 1977/83 Associate Professor, King Abdel Aziz University, Saudi Arabia
  • 1983/85 Awarded Post Doc-Fellowship, Alexander-von-Humboldt, Research Center, Juelich, Germany
  • 1986/90 Professor, Physics Dept, Assiut University
  • 1980/91 Fulbright Scholarship, visiting Professor, Univ. of California, Irvine
  • 1993/todate: Advisor for Assiut University, President for Girl students & women’s activities
  • Chairperson of Assiut Alliance for Women, a non-profit Organization aiming to empower women in all fields of life, and to encourage girls to enter the field of science.
  • Published more than Fifty Publications and got two national and international Awards.