Women engineers have been challenged to provide solutions in post-Covid economic recovery despite their fewer numbers in the profession.
This was said at the Women Engineers Summit, held on the sidelines of the Institute of Engineers of Kenya (IEK) international conference that runs till Friday at PrideInn Paradise Beach Hotel, Mombasa.
Christine Ogut, chairperson of the women engineers chapter said women are a minority in engineering, at only seven per cent of the professionals in Kenya.
“There could be no more fitting theme than “Leveraging Opportunities for Women Engineers”, she said in a speech during the opening ceremony on Tuesday.
“We all know Covid-19 has redefined the way we do a lot of things, it has taught us a new way of doing things. Women engineers will play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges facing our planet in the era of lockdown and physical distancing.”
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The summit, she added, provided women engineers with unique opportunities to listen, share ideas and connect with other engineers to realise the opportunities that lie ahead.
Areas addressed at the summit included climbing the corporate leadership, procurement, personal branding, and smart cities and intelligent infrastructure.
“Women engineers have indeed made huge strides in the last one year – more women engineers in boardrooms, governance, politics and other influential positions,” said IEK Secretary Margaret Ogai.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic has created new challenges for women professionals, exacerbating longstanding societal inequities.
“We have witnessed the loss of lives and also livelihoods. Women are the primary caregivers and hence bore the brunt of the ‘stay at home’ policy since they had to take on additional roles such as supervising schoolwork for children learning from home,” said Ogai.
In his opening remarks, IEK Board Chairman Erastus Mwongera said engineering innovation was a universal enabler.
“We may be finding ourselves in a unique position to challenge predetermined concepts of what is possible. There are countless new ways of working better enabled by the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
“Women engineers will be required to develop inclusive post-pandemic solutions. More women engineers would mean more role models for future generations of young girls.”
Mwongera said women represent half of the world’s population and face the same global challenges.
They are therefore key in designing and developing smart, sustainable technology-based solutions that would allow us all to live better lives,” he said.
IEK President Nathaniel Matalanga said women engineers should not sit and watch as things are done.
“If you are not doing anything about the current state of things, you are saying that’s okay. With women making just seven per cent of engineers in Kenya, gender-responsive insights are likely to be missed,” he said.
IEK, the president added, was working to increase the representation of women within engineering.
“We encourage young girls to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects in schools. This helps them prepare for an engineering career,” said Matalanga.