Female students who are pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses at the various universities in the African continent have been challenged to remain focused.
They have, furthermore, been challenged not to give up, despite stereotyping and intimidation they may be facing from their male counterparts.
The call was made by female engineers who are working in the power sector in some African countries, during a panel discussion at the IEEE Power Africa conference held in Abuja, Nigeria, where the topic: ‘Enhancing and retaining women in power and energy engineering’ was discussed extensively, after power point presentation by the panelists.
The panelists namely, Dr Omowunmi Mary Longe, from University of Johannesburg, South Africa, Mrs Sally Musonye of Kenya Power, Mercy Chelangat K. of Uganda and Samantha Niyoyita of Ethiopia, shared their experiences about how they were stereotyped during their school days and even at work places.
In the face of these, they dared to stand up against opposition and made it to their higher positions now.
In an interview with energynewsafrica.com, Sally Musonye, who is the Design and Construction Engineer at Kenya Power, the national electricity of Kenya, described as worrying how she was, sometimes, looked down on by customers who visit her office for help.
“For instance, I sit near a male colleague and customers come and they want to see engineer Sally, and they will refer to the male colleague. And when they go to him, he will say no…the lady over there is engineer Sally. Then they will say why are you so small…Can you even help me?” she narrated.
She lamented over the lack of role models for the few of the young female engineering professionals in their work place.
She explained that the situation is making it difficult for women to have fair representation at boardroom or decision making level in the energy sector.
“If you look at the energy sector, we don’t have proper representation of women. They are there in our companies but if you look at the boardroom positions and the key decision making, we don’t have women from STEM background.”
Sally, who described engineering course as a tough one, stressed the need for those in engineering field to be strong and develop thick skin so as to overcome challenges on the way.