We Need More Kenyan Women Engineers

We Need More Kenyan Women Engineers

June 23rd is International Women in Engineering Day, a time to mark how far we’ve come in promoting engineering as a profession to women. And it’s also an opportunity to think about what else we can do to encourage more girls to think about engineering as a fulfilling career.

My name is Maureen and I’m a 30-year-old Kenyan. I’m an electrical engineer. I didn’t have a role model when I was younger, and I didn’t know any engineers. I fell into engineering when I was in high school. I always excelled at mathematics and physics, and this is where my journey began. It was during my career sessions that the idea began to form. As a young girl, if you were a strong performer in science, you had two options – you’d either become a doctor or an engineer. One of my teachers told me I’d make a great electrical engineer as I excelled in Maths and physics, I was innovative, and always thought out of the box.

And so that’s the route I took, to study electrical engineering. Today I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in Energy management at the University of Nairobi to develop my skills and knowledge in Engineering as well as pursue my passion for sustainability and access to clean and affordable energy for all.

Before I share my thoughts on why we need to see more Kenyan women in the engineering space, let me explain why I love what I do. Being an engineer allows you to solve problems, offer solutions, and see your ideas turning into reality. And that excites me. You will literally watch the results happen in front of your very own eyes and see how this impacts people and change their lives for the better.

I’m not going to say that this is easy though. When I first graduated, I spent six months looking for a job. I feel this was mainly due to me not fitting the norm for this role as I’m very ladylike. Engineers are expected to be hands-on, to be able to handle themselves and perform in a variety of situations.

I knew I could do that, but I had to overcome stereotypes. I had to prove myself twice, first as an engineer and second as a woman. As a woman engineer, you must prove yourself constantly, to make people listen to you and believe that you can get the job done, if not better than a man.

In many ways, I’ve been fortunate to join the company I now work for, Schneider Electric. They gave me a platform to develop, interact with people from different cultures, and understand what equality truly looks like. And I’m seeing so many young women now enter the profession and excel.

There are still many barriers to girls who want to enter the profession. The greatest ones are related to educational opportunities and family support. I see so many girls in schools across the country who have the desire to become engineers, but the limiting factor is their background, especially those girls whose families are not well off. I was also fortunate to have a mentor, someone to guide me, but others don’t have someone to show them the way and talk them through the difficulties they will face.

Growing up, I didn’t have any Engineers to look up to, but I had relatives and friends who showed me the way and paid my school fees so I could focus on making my dreams come true. I now reach out to girls to mentor them to follow in my footsteps and achieve even more than I can dream of. We need more Kenyan women engineers, that’s for certain. Any girl who has the drive and motivation will succeed. My message to all you young girls today is simple; You can do whatever you want, so go out there today and change the world. You can start by becoming an engineer.

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