SECRETARY BLINKEN: (In progress) do what we did just to go around and see this. A few extraordinary things here today. First of all, extraordinary innovation here in South Africa that is going to have a powerful impact not only in South Africa but, I think, around the world.
Second, women at the heart of that innovation and in our lives. And here we are celebrating Women’s Day in South Africa – it’s particularly fitting to be here to do that and to see the critical role that women play in events and science and technology, to making sure that they have every opportunity to do that, because when they do, we see the results. We see literally life-changing results. And life-changing results – again, not just for South Africa but for the continent and the for the world. These are things that will benefit Americans too. And I’m particularly pleased to be here with my friend and colleague, the foreign minister, who in a previous experience had the science and technology portfolio. So she actually understands everything —
MINISTER PANDOR: Quite. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — (inaudible) in ways that I don’t. But it’s just incredibly inspiring to be here today. I just want to thank everyone for sharing the incredible work that they’re doing. If you ever need to get a dose of hope and optimism for the future, it’s right here and it’s women who are leading the way, not surprisingly. Thank you. (Inaudible.)
MINISTER PANDOR: Absolutely. I think you’ve said it all. This is probably an opportunity for me to thank you for the visit. I think it’s been excellent. We really welcome the strategy that you announced yesterday and look forward to working more closely together.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
MINISTER PANDOR: And I wish to thank all of the women researchers, and particularly President Gray here as well, just to say thank you for all the work that you do, and I’m so grateful that you’re training young women scientists who will follow in your excellent tracks.
I want to share, Tony, a story with you. We have a program called the South African Research Chairs program, which the doctor just indicated she’s got a research chair. We were very concerned when we first introduced the program that women were not being appointed as research chairs. So we checked the numbers, and women were a minority. So I said, no, no, we have to create more and all of them will go to women researchers. I was told by my colleagues – males – in the science fields and in the leadership of higher education, “You’re going to embarrass yourself, Minister. There aren’t women who meet the criteria.”
So there was one fantastic person who was head of the National Research Foundation, a Dr. Qhobela – I think he’s a professor now – and he said to me, “Minister, I think you should go ahead.” We advertised and said only women should apply. We had 21 positions. We had 67 competent candidates, and all those posts went to women. Some of them you see here today.
So I think what women scientists have taught us is we need to be bold, we need to be active and practical in terms of ensuring that women enjoy equal opportunity. If you take your eye away, you will find that they don’t. So it’s very important that we follow through, and I have always been really, really proud of women scientists in our country and the work that they’re doing, and especially optimistic about young women scientists. I think you won a young women in science award. Your face is so familiar. (Laughter.) I gave you that award. (Laughter.)
So fantastic to see you here, and congratulations to all of you. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
MINISTER PANDOR: And Happy Women’s Day.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Happy Women’s Day. Thank you. (Applause.)