one day i went for a trip to KEMRI and went into a malaria lab. they have incredible research project in solving the issue of malaria which is a threat to our country. i went back and read and realised mosquitoes caused much more diseases apart from malaria. thats where i started thinking of not only treating but also preventing by starting on the vector- mosquitoes. the project is entered a global challenge program and is out online for voting. please support me in this project by voting so as to join me in eradicating mosquito transmitted disease in sub- saharan region. thanks https://applications.grandchallenges.ca/en/viewVideo/28735E6AA3E63AB42BAAA3EF
WMI ambassadors had the pleasure of hosting a very interesting guest during last Saturday’s session. Dr. Njoki Ngumi is a medical doctor who formerly practiced at Pumwani Maternity in Nairobi. She no longer actively practices medicine. She works as a Programme Coordinator with The Nest Arts Company, an initiative of an organization called Because Art is Life.
Dr. Njoki came in for a session on life skills and how to navigate the work place. This conversation which took the form of a Q&A session in a circle before it turned into an intensive talk by Njoki before reverting back to Q&A started at a high key and also ended with a high note. It was so interesting that it had to end due to time constraints.
Here are a few points we took from Dr. Njoki’s circle chat.
We should take out gender form the work place. One does not carry out duties a man or a woman, one carries out duties as a professional.
Get allies at the work place. They will be able to talk for us when we are not able to.
There is no such thing as “the place for women”. There is no place for anyone.
You need to know the crowd around you. If you work with men, you need to know how to handle men at the work place. You do not need to be aggressive. You can work out a lot of issues by being amicable.
As a young woman, as long as you are single and without a child, the world is at your feet. You can work or study at whatever place you want. You also need to take advantage of scholarships and other similar opportunities.
Dress code. You need to have measures. Look at how other women in your place dress up. Njoki gave an example of herself. She used to dress differently when she used to work at hospitals from the way she dressed out of the hospital. This was simply because that was the most pragmatic way for her place of work.
Know your worth/value. Do not go for an interview without having clearly set out what you want fro that interview. If it is a salary, quote a figure and justify it.
You should support other women in your place. You can do that via several ways;
Don’t expect a person to support you simply because she is a woman, it goes with powers
Don’t hold anything against other women at your work place.
Position yourself as a mentor for other women
Every single woman is a woman at your workplace, you respect their desires too, and you don’t have to force anything.
You should stand with your decision, and be firm.
We learnt quite a lot. We will keep sharing as a we g along. Also watch out for Dr. Njoki’s story coming here soon.
For some time now this week, Ngong road has been dotted with young people in red reflector jackets at certain intervals. When a vehicle passes by them, they can be seen recording something in the sheaves of paper they are holding in their hands. They are at every turn off the road. From this, one can conclude that they are recording the number of vehicles passing through.
They are collecting data, though using a model that I can describe as old or archaic. A few weeks back, Nairobi Governor had spoken of smart traffic lights and cameras replacing traffic police in the CBD under an initiative dubbed the Nairobi CCTV/Traffic Lights Masterplan. However, it was not to be. Had it taken place, with cameras at every roundabout, the data gathered from them could have yielded a pretty smart idea of the number of vehicles that pass through, not only Ngong road but every city road, each day.
Cameras are a smart solution, but what if we had a smarter one. Monica Maluta, a fifth year student at the Technical University of Kenya has that smart solution. With the National Transport and Safety Authority listing lack of automation as one of the main challenges currently experienced in the road sector, Monica’s project seems to be perfectly timed. The smart traffic lights control system is what we need on our roads. The system has sensors installed along the road at equal intervals that measure the amount of traffic. The system then gives a certain time value from each road depending on the amount of traffic available. The more the traffic, the more the time assigned to that road and vice versa. The traffic lights are controlled based on this time. This ensures that traffic flows easily without interference from the police or motorists. The system also sends a message to your mobile phone with traffic updates. This enables you to know which roads have heavy traffic and those that do not.
Monica’s project is in tandem with some of the projects by huge tech companies such as Cisco’s Smart City initiative as well as Google’s cashless payment system for Nairobi’s public transport vehicles. With the right mentorship and resources, she could be able to partner with some of these companies or other institutions and further her work and knowledge.
Monica is part of a cable of ladies taking STEM courses in Kenyan universities that were selected to train as the first ambassadors of WMI. The good thing about these ladies is that they will receive one on one mentorship to enable them to transform their classroom projects into actual products aimed at the real world. Monica is one of them, and she already has someone eager to work with her to see how her project can be refined and possibly introduced to our roads.
And she is not the only one with brilliant ideas. Amanda, who just completed her Degree in BBIT from Strathmore, is leveraging technology to enable supermarket tellers read the prices of all the items in a shopping cart at once instead of the usual reading of one item at a time. Other ideas include digitizing medical records in rural health centres among others.
WMI Africa aims to link these young brilliant minds with other equally brilliant and experienced minds to offer direction, motivation and even resources to bring their ideas into life and the world. This inaugural group has brilliant ideas, and they are drawn from a very small area. One can only the kind of ideas and projects that are out there.
Science related courses usually record a low number of female students. Could this be caused by the perception by some of the girls that these are male related courses? In Kenya, a notable 40 percent(out of the total 123,365) of those who attained the minimum requirement to join a public university, grade C+, in 2013 KCSE results, were girls. Most of them may never have a chance to get anyone to mentor them so that they can prepare well before they finish campus and join the job market.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership, people with mentors have higher self-esteem, improved academic scores, and better links to professional resources. Do you have any idea of the qualities these girls should seek out in order to get effective mentors in the STEM field? What exactly should they look for in prospective mentors? Is it a successful career or the type of car they are driving? On the other, do the prospective mentors know the qualities that would be more beneficial to these young people? Below, we sample some thoughts, of some of the successful women working in STEM fields that have been published elsewhere ,about the qualities they consider vital in mentor-mentee relationships:
A mentor can be anybody who is willing to give back and has the time available to do that. So, from a commitment point of view, we’re looking at 20 hours annually. Which means that, it’s just about 1-2 hours a month that they need to spend on mentoring a young woman, an early career woman. And, there are different pathways that we are prescribing. So it’s not a “one size fits all.” You can do face-to-face mentoring. You can do online mentoring. You can do internships at your institution – whether it is a public, private, or entrepreneurs-led institution. You can have workplace mentoring, or job shadowing. You can also do sponsorships.
Ganapathy, on the article Mentors Help Create A Sustainable Pipeline For Women In STEM by Bonnie Marcus
I actually tell them that you don’t just choose one mentor. And it’s not necessary for you to choose a mentor that’s right at the top of the ladder. You don’t have to have a CEO as your mentor. You have to choose someone that is willing to give you the time. And I also tell them that mentors can come in various forms. So you may want to have a mentor, as an example, that could help you understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Another mentor might help you to understand organizational dynamics. Another mentor could help you to build a network within the organization so that you’re effective in navigating your career path that you juggle for yourself. So I always tell women that, you’ve got to have more than one mentor. When you pick a mentor, choose someone that you can give something back to. If you can give more than you receive, it will be pretty good, in my opinion.
Hariharan, on the article Mentors Help Create A Sustainable Pipeline For Women In STEM by Bonnie Marcus
In my own life as a scientist, pharmaceutical monitor for worldwide clinical trials and all-around self-professed science nerd, I have come across many challenges which required a “just get it done” attitude. That, coupled with strong faith in God, high self-esteem instilled in by my parents and especially my mom and countless mentors along the way not only ensured my success within the STEM field but it encouraged me to give back.
Kimberly Kiel, Principal Clinical Research Associate (CRA) and Scientist in the Pharmaceutical industry ,on her article ‘Just Do It!’– STEM Mentors Must Pay It Forward
Instilling a passion for these fields at an early age “has been shown to lead to continued academic interest and career pursuits as students age.” “We can’t wait until kids are in high school to do this,” Lechleiter says in the report. “We must start earlier. This may show for one to be a good mentor, she should be passionate in what she is doing so as to impact it to the girls being mentored.
“STEM Saves Lives”–Lilly CEO stresses importance of science, tech for kids
It’s also important to decide how much time you can devote to mentoring before you start. Maybe you can only commit to a couple of hours at a time, in which case short-term relationships might better serve the mentees. If you think you’ll be available for occasional coffees, phone calls, emails or Skype chats, a long-term relationship might be more advantageous.
By John R. Platt, What Makes a Good STEM Mentor?
No matter what age group they’re helping, the Academic Medicine study—led by researcher Sharon Straus at St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto—found that good mentors were “honest, trustworthy, and active listeners.” They gave of themselves, listened to their mentees, asked questions in return, helped mentees set goals, and made themselves available either in person or by phone or email.
By John R. Platt, What Makes a Good STEM Mentor?
Interestingly, women rated the importance of informal mentoring even higher than that of formal mentoring. Cathy Trower of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at Harvard University believes that this may be because “informal relationships arise organically and because they are not part of a formal process, they may feel more natural, closer, more trusting, and honest, which may be especially important to women in STEM, who are often in a numerical minority in their departments.”
By Centre for Interdisplinary Mentoring Research, The Importance of Mentoring Women in Science
As WMI Africa , we envisioned a place where women who are in the STEM careers such as engineering, technology , mathematics and sciences could come together and find inspiration, connect with one another and where those already working in STEM careers could mentor those who are just entering into the field.
The Institution of Engineers of Kenya had a record of 21 female corporate engineers as compared to 1465 male engineers . This represents an almost 1.4% representation of women engineers in the country, compared to 98.6% male engineers. One can only imagine how these statistics are represented across the other STEM fields.
Therefore, one of our main objectives was to support women and young ladies in STEM by inspiring them through providing resources and opportunities where they can not only learn but also showcase practically through innovative projects what they can do, given a chance. By creating an online platform where women in STEM can connect and share their unique experiences in the workplace, as well as strategies necessary to thrive in a STEM career, we hope that more women will be retained in the STEM profession.
What is Unique About Us?
We approach the problems of not enough women pursuing STEM careers, pragmatically. While we do recognize the importance of non STEM fields, we also believe that through STEM , the world get’s a chance to thrive through implementation and by practical doing. We therefore sought to find a unique balance where both can not only co-exist, but build upon each other, to present opportunities for innovation to occur and thrive.
We partnered with several partners from Enterprise, Communication fields, in order to ensure that our programs not only connect , but also relate with the real-world problems and people that STEM seeks to solve and impact. This has led to the development of our first training program for WMI Africa Ambassadors, who run various WMI Africa Chapters in universities across the country. It is important for us as engineers, as scientists, as technologists to be able to communicate our ideas, our solutions and our discoveries to those who we target impact. We believe that enabling our Ambassadors to have the best communication skills, as well as entrepreneurial thinking allows them to have much greater impact in their careers, and in the projects they embark on.
Through this program, we learnt that:
1. You cannot rush the teaching process
People are human, and not machines, and approaching their learning of new skills such as how to communicate better and how to present their ideas and how to write better, are best learnt by doing. Therefore, we will be having camps throughout April to July, to give the young women in STEM a chance to practically put their ideas to the real world.
2. The importance of great mentorship
Mentors are key if we are to help young women in STEM be exposed to the reality of being and working in STEM, as well as to encourage and support them to fully reach the potential that each young woman with the right attitude, determination and commitment can achieve. We are also putting out a call for mentors drawn from various fields, to be part of our mentorship program. Meet one of our mentors. We encourage women who are already in this field to join in mentoring young ladies who are still in university or just starting out.
3. Key Successes
We often wonder how to qualify the intangible successes – such as the impact the program has had on the young WMI Africa Ambassadors. Nevertheless, the changes in the young ladies from the beginning to now, after the training program, have been phenomenal.
Before we started, most out of the 20 applicants were not sure whether they wanted to pursue a career in STEM, nor were they sure what else their learning (technical skills taught at university) could be applied. What struck us the most, was that for many, this was the first time they had come into contact with the concept of innovation. Many had also stated that they had joined the STEM degree in University just because they had passed their KCSE (National exams) and they were told since they had the grade, they should just pursue a STEM related course so as “not to waste their brain potential”.
Fast forward three months later, and the new-found enthusiasm and excitement for their futures as well as what they can do with their skills is exciting.
Already, two ladies from the program found the confidence and skills to apply to competitive Internship opportunities in Germany, and succeeded in getting them. (They will re-join the program in July.)
Wahu Kamamia : “In the last two months, I finished university and will be graduating soon with First Class honors. I also got a contract job and a three month internship opportunity in Germany…and at a personal level, my confidence and self belief received a significant boost.”Ivyne Kubai : “I have gained the courage to ask for what I want. I have more courage. I also know what I want and I am working to achieving it.”
Since training began on January 11th, we have had a blast! The Ambassadors drawn from different Universities , and different STEM fields have gotten to know one another better, have learnt how to work as teams, and most importantly , how to communicate their ideas, as well as the WMI Africa vision to the world.
The Ambassadors were chosen through a rigorous application process, that saw 20 members picked for the 9-month long Program.
While Universities teach skills to solve problems of a technical nature, our three-month training program is designed to bridge the soft and life skills knowledge gap among young STEM graduates, as well as exposing them to real-life situations through practical and hands-on training. These include communication , critical thinking, team work, research and professionalism. Thus, bridging the gap between what one would learn in a technical field and being successful at the work place and in their careers in the long-term.
As a young kid, Sarah was frequently picked on because of her thin frame. So thin was she that they named her skeleskunde. Because of her small frame, she practically had to elbow her way into most activities. At that age, she didn’t know that her fights were equipping her with skills she would need later in life. Now, after close to eight years of working for small tech companies to telecommunication companies like Safaricom and Vodafone UK, she knows too well it is not all rosy for a woman out here.
“The other day I was playing golf, and I was surprised at the low number of women on the course. And this is where the business deals are made, business deals that are life changing. Imagine the number of opportunities women miss out for being out of such places!” She says.
Sarah is back in the country after six years studying and working in the United Kingdom. And as she reacquaints herself with her home country, she still can’t resist noticing some of the positive things about her home city. One thing that has so far stood out in Nairobi is that everything is open. You know what is going on, at least in her case.
“Someone will tell you that they want you somewhere because they need their person to keep an eye on things at that place. Unlike London where you don’t particularly know what is at play.” she says.
And finding her way into the local tech industry has not been that challenging. Barely in the country for three months, even before she had made the decision of staying instead of going back to her job in London where she had worked as a telecommunications consultant, she has received quite a number of job offers.
“I like the way I don’t have to look anymore. I also like the fact that I get to choose what to do with a company.” she says. Her skills and experience played a central role in this.
But that has not always been the case. She had to go for extra courses after graduating with a Computer Science degree from the University of Nairobi to be well equipped for her working life. She believes that curriculum developers in the country need to review what is in place to make sure what they impart mirrors the skills required at the workplace. However, that is not to say that not everything she did during her undergraduate studies required an upgrade.
Her undergraduate research project was on Augmented Reality. It was a big deal back then. It won her an award which saw her go to the University of Cambridge for an MPhil in Technology Policy.
She is happy but not content with the level at which technology sector is in Kenya. “I think we are a few years ahead of most African nations,” she says.
However, she feels that there could only be more women tech related professions and in STEM in general in the country. She would love to see more women sitting in the boardrooms of engineering firms. A long way to go; according to the Engineers Registration Board, as of May 2012, there were 413 registered women graduate engineers as compared to 4974 males. The Institution of Engineers of Kenya had a record of 21 female corporate engineers as compared to 1465 male engineers . This represents an almost 1.4% representation of women engineers in the country, compared to 98.6% male engineers.
In addition to their small number, Sarah says women in STEM in general face several challenges in the workplace with the immediate one being the work place not being as inviting for women professionals. Some issues that women face are not considered worthwhile and are held against them, for instance a case of a woman missing work due to childcare issues is not taken well in some workplaces.
However, having been inculcated with the virtues of hard work and education by her academic parents at early age, Sarah knows that things can only get better. There are companies that already take in the needs of women when designing their workplace policies. Safaricom, for instance, has catered for mothers who can come with their children to the workplace. The friendly work environment at Google is also worth a mention. Several women stand at the vanguard of creating a conducive workplace for women with people like Ory Okolloh boasting of achievements in the technology and public policy sector.
Sarah plans to be among leading professionals in the telecommunications industry worldwide and eventually contribute to Kenya by influencing policy making in the communications industry. She plans to enroll for her PhD at the University of Nairobi. She prefers undertaking PhD studies in Kenya because lecturers will understand the issues she would raise as opposed to most of the lecturers in Europe or America. “They have the CNN view of Africa. It is hard to agree with such a person.” she says. In fact, she is not alone in this decision. She has a friend with a Masters degree from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also opted to register for his PhD at the University of Nairobi.
Sarah looks up to Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s Chief Executive. She also shares a lot with her, least of which is not fashion. Her passion, determination and vision she has to make lean in and at the same time, she plans to create the way for those who will come after her. Her advice to young women is to never cease to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way, to know their value and to never let anyone take advantage of them.
She always looks for ways of giving back to the community. She volunteers at the Naitera foundation, an organization that helps the elderly in Limuru, where she was born. In addition, she is thinking of establishing a forum to bring together women in Nairobi. This came about after she realized that there are few if any such fora.
“I am thinking of organizing a gathering of women in Nairobi where we can simply meet, share, network and motivate each other,” she says.
We believe in the legacy of innovation, leadership and mentorship, and provide educational , leadership and mentorship opportunities for women pursuing careers in STEM . Thus, WMI Africa works to encourage girls and women to develop and maintain their interests in STEM, and help them devise the necessary strategies to thrive in a STEM career as well as working through outreach to girls in high schools to help them bridge the gap from having an interest in engineering to getting involved in engineering opportunities, and knowing what engineering opportunities to pursue.
We do this in four main ways:
- Online Platform
- Mentorship and Networking Opportunities
- Ambassador Program
Who is a WMI Ambassador?
WMI Ambassadors are university students who are excited and passionate about their STEM fields. They are young ladies who represent WMIAfrica at their respective universities and hold forums and clubs that involve peer mentorship among the ladies pursuing STEM studies, creativity and innovation that all contribute to the enhancement of the WMIAfrica digital platform network.
Meet some of the Ambassadors who are benefitting from the Program:
Engineers from Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries are invited to enter a major new prize which rewards innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering.
The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has announced the launch of the first Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation and is calling for entries from engineers connected with universities and research institutions in sub-Saharan African countries.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is Africa’s biggest prize devoted to engineering innovation, covering all disciplines from mechanical, civil and computing to biomedical, oil and gas, mining and electronic engineering.
“Engineering is crucial to social and economic development in South Africa and internationally,” said Malcolm Brinded, a Fellow of the RAEng and Chair of the judging panel for the prize. “The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation aims to recognise the importance of African engineers and to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship, while encouraging young people to become engineers by creating successful role models.”
“This new competition is designed to incentivise engineers to use their passion to develop innovative solutions to their country’s challenges. The Africa Prize will demonstrate how engineering is at the heart of economic development.”
Engineers from all disciplines are invited to submit innovations with a social, economic or environmental benefit. Entries must be early-stage innovations which have the potential to be scaled-up and are ready for commercialisation.
The deadline for entries is Friday 30 May 2014.
A shortlist of entrants will benefit from six months of extensive mentoring, training and support in commercialising their innovation. The overall winner will receive £25,000 and there will be an exhibition of all finalists’ entries.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is supported by the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, Consolidated Contractors Company, ConocoPhilips and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The RAEng is the UK’s national academy for engineering. It brings together successful engineers to advance and promote excellence in engineering. Encouraging and facilitating engineering innovation is a major focus of the Academy’s work, both domestically in the UK and in sub-Saharan Africa. A key component of its focus is on public understanding of engineering and increasing awareness of how engineering impacts lives.
Thanks to Jonathan Ledgard for sharing this information!
There are times in life when everything seems to be going OK. Every project you embark on becomes successful and you feel like you are on top of the world. They always say enjoy it while it lasts. I have had such moments in my life and what matters most is how you pick up the broken pieces of your life and restart afresh.
At some point in my life, I was someone to look up to, envied by many. I can say my life was almost perfect. But you know sometimes people set very high standards for us, so that when things do not work out, they view us as failures. I had everything I needed at that point in my life. I was young, was working, I had super hot loving boyfriend (am not kidding); a very good reputation, everywhere, and being a bold courageous girl always gave me the credit everywhere I went. I represented myself well and I always knew what I wanted.
I got to learn that it takes just one second for a reputation you take years to build to crumple to the ground. Do you know that one wrong turn in life can cost you everything that characterizes you? All of you have watched the movie “WRONG TURN”, or at least heard the ghastly things that happen to the people who take the wrong turn.
Life is like “WRONG TURN”, 1, 2, or 5, whichever. If you don’t tread on the right waters, you will find yourself sinking deep into the unknown. It took me one wrong turn to lose everything that defined me. I was lucky because I am a strong girl; I had received constant mentor-ship while in high school, and most of the motivational talks came handy at this point. I knew that when life throws you lemons, make yourself a lemonade.
I picked up the pieces of my life and started rebuilding myself. Since I knew exactly whom I wanted to be, it did not take me long before I got back to my feet .I put down a new foundation to my life, and the key aspect was that I was not going to allow anyone to define me. I set my own standards. Standards I could achieve. Slowly I started rebuilding me. All I can say now is that I am not doing badly. I am quite a good fundi, the new me is not a castle yet, but I will be there someday. I have made progress in my life; those who saw me crush to square one are my witnesses. The moral of this article is; life will never go as per your expectations, but that does not mean you stop living.
Problems and mistakes should be stepping stones to a brighter and better future. Choose your acquaintances wisely and do not be a person who is easily swayed by the current. They say a mistake is not a mistake until it is repeated. And people should learn from their mistakes. Why should people always learn from your mistakes? You should also learn from the mistakes of others since every day is a whole new learning experience.
HAVE A GREAT TIME AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
#my attribution goes to all the episodes of the horror movie “WRONG TURN”#