STEMM Profile: Dr Ropafadzo Moyo | PhD Geography and Planning; MSc Zoology; BSc Hons Marine Biology | Sydney | NSW

Dr Ropa Moyo [Photo credit: Tapiwa Mufunde]

“The biggest challenge faced by women in the STEMM sector is stereotypes. People will tell you that you cannot perform or succeed in certain fields as well as the men. Sometimes, those stereotypes go beyond gender particularly for women from minority groups”

Dr Ropafadzo Kelebuhile Moyo is a passionate environmental professional with a background in Biological and Social Sciences. She obtained her Bachelor of Science Hons. in Marine Biology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Ropa then attended the University of Cape Town in South Africa where is graduated with a Master of Science in Zoology. Upon completion, she worked as an ecologist for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for almost a year.

In 2016, she relocated to Australia to pursue a PhD in Geography and Planning with a focus on wildlife conservation and social development at Macquarie University. Dr Moyo was recently awarded her PhD and is currently seeking new opportunities.

What is the most important advice you have ever received?

Someone said to me once “it does not have to be perfect; it just needs to be good enough”. There is no such thing as perfection because perfection is subjective. No matter how “perfect”, there will always be people to criticize, the key is to not let criticism and fear stop you from greatness.

How do you cope with self‐doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is real and the crippling fear that you are not good enough can stop you from reaching out for what you want. I cope with imposter syndrome by reminding myself of all that I have achieved so far. I am where I am because I worked hard to get here and would not be here if I were an imposter.

What inspired you to do science? Have you always liked STEMM?

When I was about 4 years old, I saw a rhino for the first time, and I fell deeply in love with wildlife. In high school, I studied Biology and I knew then that biodiversity related sciences were where I was headed. My mother, never having had the opportunity to pursue what she really wanted in colonial Zimbabwe due to the limited career opportunities black people had at the time, encouraged me to do what I wanted.

What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

One of the most difficult challenges I have faced so far is switching from academia to industry. I have overseas qualifications for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and my PhD research focused on wildlife conservation and social development in Southern Africa. I have acquired amazing transferable skills through my research work and most of my work experience is either teaching or research. However, there is still a divide between academia and industry, and it is proving to be difficult to get my foot into the industry. It is a barrier that I am working to overcome through networking and volunteering which will hopefully improve my communication skills so I can best communicate the relevance of my transferable skill sets. It is a barrier I am confident I will overcome.

How do we support the next generation of women in STEMM?

Sometimes it is hard to become what you cannot see. The next generation of women in STEMM need to see that there are women in STEMM doing great work and succeeding in fields that they might have been told are not for them. We need to provide them women role models that they can relate to and aspire to be like.

What is the biggest challenge to women pursuing a career in the STEMM sector?

The biggest challenge faced by women in the STEMM sector is stereotypes. People will tell you that you cannot perform or succeed in certain fields as well as the men. Sometimes, those stereotypes go beyond gender particularly for women from minority groups. Due to these stereotypes, the amount of time and value put into encouraging and nurturing young women and minority groups to pursue careers in STEMM is just not enough.

LinkedIn: Dr Ropafadzo Kelebuhile Moyo