Celebrating mother’s In STEM: Edith Ajema, Inspiring Girls to Excel in Math and Science

What is your name?

Edith Ajema

Which is your STEM field?

Mathematics and Chemistry

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

I trained as a mathematics and chemistry secondary school teacher by choice and passion. I encountered STEM in the course of discharging my professional duties.

Could you share a brief overview of your journey in the STEM field?

I have taught Mathematics and Chemistry in various High Schools in Kenya for 37 years, now retired. Interacting with youth at their ages , teenagers, and seeing them succeed in the end has been quite fulfilling. One of the biggest battles l had to fight was the learners attitude in these subjects. It is the biggest hindrance to good and successful performance. The other is the cultural belief that these subjects are for the boy child. The battle against negative attitude is real. I taught in girl schools mainly and my experience is that the girl child ,if well handled is an equal competitor in these fields of study. I taught youths mathematics with passion and saw them succeed year in year out until in some two prominent schools l acquired the title “mama hesabu” translated as ” the mother of mathematics”, a title l proudly embraced.

How has motherhood impacted your career journey in STEM?

Motherhood inspired me more because l desired to see some of my children also succeed in these fields of science and mathematics. My desire was fulfilled because my eldest daughter graduated as a Mathematics and Physics High School teacher and my eldest son studied Computer science. My children’s success encouraged me to see other people children succeed too in this area. I have met quite a number who are successful in competitive careers and professions. Though it’s a big challenge dividing career and family. God gave me the wisdom and strength to walk this journey.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a mother in the STEM industry?

Sometimes it was quite demanding getting involved in science projects i.e science congress activities, clubs and societies etc and handling a young family simultaneously. It’s a lot easier when the children are all grown. As earlier mentioned, the cultural mindsets are a set back in the STEM industry but can be overcome, with patience and resilience.

What support systems or resources have helped you navigate the challenges you faced being a mother in STEM?

Team spirit. It’s was much easier working together with the younger teachers in the profession so that all l had to do was give guidance and adequate supervision where necessary.

In what ways can the STEM industry better support and accommodate mothers?

Sensitize, recruit and bring them on board. Have forum for purposes of encouragement and further enlightenment on crucial areas in the STEM field.

How can we (mothers already in STEM) encourage more mothers and aspiring mothers pursue and thrive in STEM careers?

They should connect , reach out and partner with other mothers in their fields of specialization and not be loners. They should seek to be involved in what’s on the ground in each particular season and learn from others.

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to pursue careers in STEM while also planning to become mothers?

They should go for it. There’s always a way where there is a will. Nothing is impossible.