“It is important to me that every girl who is science inclined embraces her dreams with a sprout mindset rather than a rigid mindset”- Engr. Ekenimi Umoh. S.T.E.M Career Advocate

Engr. Ekemini is an Electrical Engineer with 5 years career experience in electrical project designs and supervision. Ekemini is passionate about women enlightenment especially in the engineering sector where few women practice in Nigeria despite the interventions to address gender gap and believes that women if accorded the opportunity will contribute immensely to the growth and remodeling of our nation. Ekemini is the founder of Uforo Woman Initiative, a platform for leadership and mentor-ship of the girl child to inform, create awareness, build capacity, encourage and inspire them for a more confident career and to effect real positive change in the future. Uforo Woman’s goal is to raise the next generation ideal tech women by grooming young girls with interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Energy and Mathematics – (STEEM) for a thriving career.

Ekemini obtained her 1st degree in Electrical / Electronics Engineering and further obtained her MSc. In Energy and Power Electronics Systems from the University of Warwick, UK. Her study and experience in the UK spurred her interest in Renewable Energy and Waste Management Policies. The present situation of the Nigerian Power Sector and the need to adopt clean and green energy got her more interested in Energy Conservation and Waste Management Policies as there is really no implementation of these management and conservation practices in Nigeria. Thus she incorporated Energy as a major field in Uforo woman’s STEEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Energy, and Mathematics).

What was your first job …

My first job was a voluntary job with my dad’s company. It was voluntary in the sense that I wasn’t paid but I learnt a lot from the artisans on site.

Which part of STEM are you currently working in?

I have a 5 years’ career experience and Electrical Engineering and I have been involved in various electrical project designs and supervision in accordance with the set priorities of time, scope and quality, while building my capacity and developing my career. I am currently working as a resident electrical engineer with Integrated Practice Consultants, a Consulting firm presently consulting for National Institute for Legislative Studies complex constructed by Julius Berger and the design for the proposed national assembly hospital complex.

I am also the founder/CEO, Uforo Woman Initiative. A platform for leadership and mentorship for girls.

How did you become or end up as a STEM employee/employer?

I am keen about being a part of people who relentlessly make efforts to change our lives for better with their power of initiative, skills, creativity, knowledge and experience. The challenges involved in bringing up new ideas to solve everyday problems give me satisfaction. Growing up, I have always been captivated by engineering advances and new innovative solutions to everyday problems which has increased my desire to learn more about engineering and develop my confidence in tackling more challenging questions.

Looking at where you are today, would you have told a 20-year-old younger self anything different?…

Well, yes! I would encourage any young girl especially those in the male dominated fields to embrace their dreams with a growth mind-set rather than a rigid mind-set. And also I encourage girls to be bold and brave, interact more and ask questions whenever it’s necessary because most girls back then in school tended to be so laidback in male dominated classes.

Share some key decisions, actions or advice that propelled you into your role

Most times our careers may not align with our purpose but whenever career and purpose aligns, it brings a feeling of transcendence and fulfilment. I started out by teaching kids at my leisure time. I tried to encourage and understand their various reasons for disliking mathematics and simplify it in an easy and fun filled manner. I thought of a platform to encourage young girls with interest in STEM and Enegy to attain their aspiration without limits because it is important to me that every girl who is science inclined embraces her dreams with a sprout mindset rather than a rigid mindset. My passion for sustainable energy made me incorporate Energy as a major field in Uforo Woman’s STEM. Through studies and questionnaires, I put forward to consideration that one of the factors that contribute to the female lagging performance in STEEM is that there are limited female Science teachers readily available. A conversation with a father about his take on girls in STEEM led him to share that most science teachers readily available for private tutoring were male and he didn’t want his daughter having a male private tutor. A female colleague also shared that she was almost a victim of abuse by her male private tutor. These experiences can be a really discouraging factor and we reprimand such acts. This led me to start “Uforo Woman Initiative”.

Apparently, electrical engineering quite has many offshoots including; electrical power and energy systems, information and communication technology, electronics, etc. My current job is centered on electrical services (i.e. construction) and my passion is sustainable energy. My main aim and commitment is to tackle climate change by using technical and practical measures to achieve environmental sustainability and preserve the future of our habitat and I aim to explore the prospects of using alternative materials to realize more manageable, accessible, proficient and cost-effective sustainable energy systems. Also, I am currently an advocate for energy conservation and waste management and I volunteer to reach out to girls and people in rural areas on the impacts of our daily activities on climate change because even while we design and build technically conserving systems and management policies, we cannot underestimate the power of information and guideline on users/energy consumers.

What will you say are the proudest accomplishment in your career…

I celebrate every milestone I accomplish and I’m hopeful for more.

Women in STEM are bold. What has been your boldest move to date …

 It take boldness to go to site everyday surrounded by men.

What are the joys and challenges of having a STEM career?

 The joys know no bounds and to be honest the challenges can be overwhelming but stay optimistic, persevere and you will succeed.

Is there something about STEM careers that women need to be aware of…

 Women have an important role to play in the advancement of STEM. The STEM industry constantly evolves and there is a dire need for fresh ideas and diversified thinking. To achieve this, the STEM gender gap must be bridged. This will create a balanced and diversified pool of talents. The prevalent opinion of girls is due to societal representation of STEM as a predominantly male field. However, it is imperative to degenderize STEM, categorize less and explore more. This way, more girls have an extensive opportunity to discover their full potentials.

Young women are under-represented in STEM. What advice would you share to people starting a career or building a professional business in this field

 I am passionate about women enlightenment especially in the engineering sector where few women practice in Nigeria despite the interventions to address gender gap. My advice is that you believe in yourself, set goals and targets and aim right.

If you had a Mentor, what was their best advice that helped shape your role in STEM…

 My dad has always been my mentor. He has always encouraged me from when I was very little to the point where I was eligible to get my practice license, he made sure I didn’t procrastinate and even to this day, he still encourages me to learn and work hard.

Women face challenges in career in general. As one working in a STEM career, what are your biggest setbacks …

For me, I haven’t really observed those negative stereotypes on my career path, maybe because my dad made me very confident and to understand that I had what it takes to be a brilliant engineer. My current job has also served as a platform and exposed me to engineering services giving me a sense of fulfilment working in this sector without gender bias and the negative stereotype thinking of women in this sector.

Enlighten us on the lesson Iearnt from this set back ….

 For me, one of the lessons was when I lost my husband last year December after nearly 3 years of marriage. It was a really sober time for me and my 2 sons especially my second son who was 2 months old then. This experience taught me the power of inner strength and believing in yourself. This gave me more reason to be most grateful to GOD for the gift of life and purpose. It also taught me to appreciate relationships and value life even more. While he was alive, he encouraged me to take giant steps in my career and my passion for girl enlightenment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. One of the things I have learnt is that whatever we can do to love more, help, encourage and appreciate one another to make life worthwhile, we must do so without procrastination.

Also, I realized at this point, the importance of knowledge and information and that it is imperative that every woman is self-sufficient and independent.

Careers help to build the many skills. What skills have you built so far through STEM?…

 Apart from majoring in power systems during my undergrad, I took up other trainings in ICT like Microsoft certified IT professional, Cisco network associate and project management. These additional skills are skills that I encourage young girls to take up so that they can leverage on the many job opportunities both online and offline and earn an income.

Would you say we have role models that are motivating young women to have careers in STEM? Please share who they are

 Engr. Mayen Adetiba

Arc Jumoke Adenuwo

Do young women have what it takes to pick up a career in STEM? Please share reasons

 Yes they do. How we express ourselves and doing so boldly could be the reformation needed for women and girls to get going about their dreams and career paths.

Uforo Woman Initiative is a platform for leadership and mentor-ship of the girl child to inform, build capacity, encourage and inspire them for a more confident career and to effect real positive change in the future..

 If one searched the web for, what won’t they find…

 The comedian in me. Most close people think I have a good sense of humor but that is one thing the public would disagree with.

How do you stay inspired in your career?…

My inspiration comes from the fact that the world needs to adjust to achieve sustainability and as an advocate, I’m determined to work with like minds to drive a paradigm shift in STEM and Energy.

Uforo woman Initiative’s vision is to set standards in science, technology and energy education from primary level to tertiary level. We aspire to change the wasteful and ignorant lifestyle on energy and waste management in our country and impart it as a lifestyle to the next generation. Our aim is to be a hub for girls to innovate, initiate and interact/communicate scientific ideas, think critically, creatively and analytically to solve problems and appreciate the advantages and limitations of science and its application in technological advancements. UforoWoman will also engage girls interested in technology/engineering at ongoing-sites for practical experience. This pathway will not only focus on science but will also groom them morally to make decisions in other contexts and demonstrate values of respect and honesty for themselves and their shared environment. I have written sustainability contents and proposals to enlighten children and adults and I still need to broaden my knowledge on the most effective ways to adopt these practices fully. I believe I will learn a lot from the fellowship. One step away from speaking up, grabbing an opportunity/challenge is a step away from broadening our views, building-up our abilities and keeping the doors closed. Involvement is saying Yes! knowing that we all share one planet. My career and purpose alignment keeps me pushing to give my best as this gives me a feeling of satisfaction and transcendence

Some say the future is female. What do you think and why?

I believe one of the most effective ways to impart the next generation is to inform the woman. As the saying: “Train a boy, you have trained an individual, Train a girl and you have trained a generation.” The girls who eventually become mothers will be caregivers and educators to their children. And because the girl is more homely, if every home has an enlightened girl, our generation will be positively influenced.

Are there projects you are involved in that we should know about?…

 The virtual learning project being executed by the Office of the African Union Youth Voices Ambassador in association with Uforo Woman Initiative is a composite project that seeks to harness disruptively innovative digital technologies to extend access to education to the over 53 million girls across Africa who are currently excluded from formal education as well as equip young girls with highly sought-after digital skills that would enable them take full advantage of the enormous job opportunities available online.

The project which was presented before, and adopted by African leaders at the 30th AU Summit in January 2018, seeks to take education to the homes of girls in remote communities as well as those in terrorism prone areas who cannot congregate to learn because of the security risks involved.

The project takes advantage of the impressive penetration rate of mobile devices across Africa (43%, the worlds highest) and would use offline apps to deliver educational content to learners in their homes, enabling quality learning for girls in hard-to-reach communities that do not have access to internet.

The project would also train girls in secondary schools on highly lucrative digital skills such as website development, mobile application development, online content development, Graphics Design, Social Media marketing, virtual assistance etc. to prepare girls to take up tons of highly convenient but high paying freelance jobs available online.

The project is aimed at improving literacy among girls and reducing poverty among women in line with the education for all, gender equality and extreme poverty reduction objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Thank you Ekemini. I hope to feature your achievements and use them as a tool to motivate more young women into STEM.

Follow The Uforo Woman Initiative on Twitter and Facebook @uforowoman

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