APWEN: Poised to promoting, encouraging females in STEM careers, bridge gender gap…

APWEN President, Engr. Funmilola Ojelade

The Association of Professional Women Engineering of Nigeria, APWEN celebrated the 2020 International Women Engineering Day with pomp and ceremonies.
Undeterred by customs and traditions which have restraint the girl child education in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, the body has braced the trail in encouraging the female child in STEM through scholarships.

At the commemoration of the International Women Engineering Day, APWEN made it clear that they are determined to contribute their quota in shaping the world in line with the theme of the celebration, The Role of Women in Shaping the World.
In her welcome address, APWEN President, Engr. Funmilola Ojelade said their desire to meet the global requirement of promoting diversity, had given  APWEN the impetus to be the first Association to advocate for girl-child STEM education in Nigeria and also among the first few professional engineering institutions in Nigeria to develop a gender and diversity policy to encourage the inclusive growth of members from diverse backgrounds. 

She stated that APWEN entered into a productive partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom in 2019 with the SHEengineer Invent It, Build It Project in which they bagged a grant for capacity building.

“The SHEengineer Invent it, Build it project was awarded a grant by the Royal Academy of Engineering UK under the GCFR African catalyst programme which is in phase 3 presently.  This project is a capacity building program of APWEN for female engineers, STEM teachers and public secondary school pupils in JSS1 & 2 in the six geo political zones of Nigeria.”

“The aim of the GCRF Africa Catalyst programme is to strengthen professional engineering bodies in sub-Saharan Africa to effectively promote the profession, share best practice and increase local engineering capacity to help drive development.”
In her presentation, the grant awardee of the UK Royal Academy of Engeerring and project Director, SHEEngineer Invent it, Build it, Dr. Felicia Agubata said APWEN was on a mission to close the gender gap in engineering, and to change the image of what an engineer looks like and does.

Director and Grant awardee SHEENIGEER invent it, Build it project, Dr. Felicia Agubata

She noted that the engineering profession was mainly dominated by males with only 13% of females in the workforce, adding that unfortunately, this parity does not always carry over into the professional world thereby leading to a significant gender gap in the science and technology workforce. 

“Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM. It may perhaps be the most-male dominated profession in Nigeria with women making up only 13% of the engineering workforce. This is as revealed by a research carried out in 2019. When it comes to studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects at school. Male and female are virtually at par in terms of performance.”

To have more female in the profession, Dr. Agubata emphasized that it was important  to investigate what deters young women from pursuing STEM careers, adding that there should be a closer look at how they could encourage secondary school girls to follow their dreams and flairs with regards to the Sciences. 
“This would introduce a broader range of knowledge and ideas when developing STEM innovations. This  will definitely help girls overcome perceived gender role barriers.”

President, Nigeria Society of Engineer, NSE, Babagana Mohammad urged the women engineer to seek collaboration with their men counterparts and not to compete in order to achieve their goals.

“What I expect from you us collaboration then if you are competing then there is a problem, so it is better you don’t compete but collaborate the from there all of us will come back and support all of you.”
One of the panelists at the webinar, Engr. Robinson Elijah, harped on advocacy and awareness sensitization of STEM and also partner policy makers.”To encourage girls to enroll in STEM related schools, I think first and foremost more advocacy and awareness Creation is important, am happy that APWEN the SHEEngineer Invent it, Build it project is doing a lot of job in that direction.”

He added, “I think the necessary thing we may need to do to ensure that the environment is still enabling for the women to thrive and prosper and off course manifest this leadership attributes they do have even though it is not only unique to them is first and foremost engaging the policy makers, we need to have robust policy, so  we need to engage the policy makers to make policy provision that are robust enough to cater for equal employment opportunity and affirmative action, this will help to level out.”

Another Panelists, Engr. Idiat Amusu said what was needed to be done was to reset perception, reposition reeducate the entire populace about the girls child and women in whatever profession.

“We need to start to reeducate our populace, I call it the 3 arrows, we need to reset perception, we also need to reposition, let us reposition the issues on ground, do you want women to be in the society or not?”

She expressed sadness that women were not given the respect they deserve as women and human beings in the society and workplace because they are females.
“There are some issues that are really upsetting some of us for instance what do you talk about the biases, the perception of the society, the men believe that they own the world but then there are things to be done to make sure that they own the world, they detect everything that is done,you look at advertise in the papers and interview, the first thing they ask you as a female is are you hoping yo have children? This is very annoying, first of all, it is demoralizing, how many children do you hope to have? For goodness sake it has nothing to do with your job, it has nothing to do with your intelligence and if the society we are is in that platform we have a big problem.”

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of diversity, inclusion and ambassadors awards to the President NSE, Engr. Babagana Mohammed, Engr. Robinson Elijah and Engr. Mustpha Balarabe Shehu.

The International Women in Engineering Day is celebrated every year on the 23rd of June. The day is designed to bring into reckoning the very commendable contributions of women in engineering development world over.

INWED is an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in the engineering world. 


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