Women continue to shape the world through their leadership, from leading nations to standing up for human rights and to running the world’s most important organisations. It's important to have female leaders in positions of influence for they serve as role models and it is not only critical to the career advancement of women but it stands to generate broader societal impacts on pay equity, changing workplace policies in ways that benefit both men and women, and attracting a more diverse workforce.
According to a study conducted in 2019 by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy employed about 32% of women, compared to 22% in the Energy sector overall. Still, within the renewable space, women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs is far lower than in administrative jobs. Despite these facts, women are still turning glass ceilings into floors and on this week’s OVAReact Podcast, we got the chance to speak with Global Wind Energy Council Director of Africa WindPower, Wangari Muchiri who is a fine example that women can be engineers too.
“Women in STEM are engineering their way through the glass ceiling!”
We highlighted some of the steps that have helped Wangari stand out as a woman engineer and as a result, these steps have led her to now oversee Africa and lead different counties in the continent to be more sustainable.
Embrace your femininity
When Wangari was in school she was the only black girl and was one out of five girls pursuing her degree, throughout her career journey she is often one of the few women in the room. One of her key pieces of advice and one she emulates is embracing her femininity. She talked about how women who find themselves in typically a man’s world can be guilty of trying to make themselves look like men from how they dress, to the choice of wearing less make-up and in the end, they begin to lose their feminine identity. Wangari encourages women to wear that daring red lipstick, and colourful suits and to embrace the soft nature they bring to their role, for ultimately when women become more themselves within STEM-based roles being a woman then becomes the norm.
"So instead of trying to kind of make ourselves like the men, so that we can be engineers, no we can be our own type of engineers."
In order to broaden your ability to opportunities Wangari encourages the idea of volunteering for organisations within your career field because doing so can lead you to get recognised by other organisations and thus get invited to various conferences or even chair in different faculties within your field. Wangari began volunteering for Kenya Green Building Society and as a result of her career growth, she now serves as one of the board members.
Apply for After School & Fellowship Programs
In 2019, Wangari was one of the selected Obama African Leaders and participation in such programs is something she vouches for because it definitely helped elevate her career. So she encourages those interested in STEM or engineering specifically, to participate in various programs. Some of which she mentioned were like The Zayed Sustainability Prize which is suitable for those in high school as it recognises projects that drive impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions across five distinct categories: Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools. Another program she recommends for those interested in renewable energy is the GWEC - Women In Wind program which Wangari herself did and as a result led her to now being the official Director for Africa. We also recommend other programs such as YALI, East Africa Acumen fellowship, and accessing free online courses on different platforms such as UNITAR, Coursera etc. We as founders too can attest to being part of some of these programs and as a result, we have enjoyed the benefits and fruits it has borne in our careers, so we would support Wangari in encouraging you all to apply and participate in the programs suitable for your field.
"The more of us in this space the less of a question that she is a woman."
Listen to what else Wangari had to share through the various digital podcast platforms shared below. Schedule your calendar to listen to the LIVE episodes of the #OVAReactPodcast on Capital FM Kenya on Mondays at 10.30 pm EAT.
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