Celebrating Mother’s in STEM: Mary Njoroge’s Passion and Drive for Innovation

What is your name?

Mary Njuguna

Which STEM field are you in?


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

When I was in high school, I met an alumni called Joan. She currently works in the Wind Energy Sector. She’s been my inspiration. Also, growing up I had an insane love for science and would tinker around with broken down equipment.

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

My passion for renewable energy, particularly solar energy and its productive uses in post-harvest applications, took root during my studies. Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering provided me with a strong foundation in the fundamentals while nurturing my enthusiasm for sustainable energy solutions. After graduating in 2022, I joined a company company where I had the opportunity to lead a dynamic team in designing and implementing innovative solar-powered systems such as chillers, pasteurizers, and solar dryers for post-harvest management. This role has allowed me to apply my technical expertise in renewable energy system design while also honing my project management and leadership skills. A key part of my responsibilities involved ensuring the successful operation of our products through rigorous quality checks before delivery to customers and providing comprehensive training and after-sales support to ensure our clients could optimally utilize and maintain the systems we implemented. Beyond execution, I have remained actively engaged in research and development efforts, constantly exploring new ideas. This passion for innovation fueled my desire to create tangible solutions that could positively impact communities. My journey has been driven by a strong commitment to driving change and a desire to develop innovative solutions that can create meaningful change. Looking ahead, I am excited to continue exploring opportunities that allow me to make a lasting impact through sustainable practices.

How has motherhood impacted your career journey in STEM?

Becoming a mother has been one of the most profoundly transformative experiences of my life, bringing both immense joy and an entirely new set of challenges to navigate alongside my career. As a new parent, my priorities were very mixed up. Ensuring I could be physically and emotionally present for my child was paramount but so was attending classes, finalising my project and getting an internship. I made the difficult decision to attempt and do them all. I had a supportive circle with me working full-time but it still took a toll on me physically. While that choice gave me space for advancing my career and be a mother all at once, it also introduced immense guilt about potentially stunting my career growth as I would take every chance I was free to be home with my baby. There were certainly many moments where I questioned whether I could truly “have it all” – being the ideal mother while also achieving my personal and professional ambitions. Over time, I’ve realized there is no perfect balance, only constant recalibration. By setting boundaries, leveraging a strong support system, and foregoing feelings of needing to excel at everything all the time, I’ve been able to craft a more sustainable path. I’ve learned to be more attuned to my physical and mental needs. Most importantly, I’ve given myself grace and self-compassion through the process. Motherhood has made me a better engineer in many ways – more attuned to efficiency, more intentional about prioritization, and with a heightened motivation to develop sustainable solutions for future generations. It has undoubtedly made the journey more winding, but also richer and more purposeful. So while challenging at times, the duality of motherhood and my STEM career has been an incredibly rewarding synthesis that has allowed me to live more fully while making a meaningful impact in the world

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

Just weeks after delivery, trying to juggle the overwhelming demands of caring for a newborn while also pursuing my education and career felt unrelenting at times. In those early months, the sleep deprivation alone made focusing on coursework extremely difficult. Leaving my infant at home or with caregivers for extended stretches provoked intense guilt as a new mom. I worried about missing developmental milestones and not being physically present enough. The mental load of trying to be a committed student and later employee while also a fully engaged mother was psychologically draining. I did experienced mom-bias and had my commitment to my STEM education and career frequently questioned by potential employers and peers who assumed I would inevitably deprioritize it. Proving myself over and over while masking any struggles became exhausting. I’m still on a journey to see that I can properly pursue my career aspirations without being constantly torn between two worlds. While immensely difficult, it made me significantly more resourceful and resilient.

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

Family Support: My mum stepped up in an incredible way by providing hands-on childcare assistance. Having someone to look after my baby while I am at work, school or studying has allowed me to stay focused and make progress. Their emotional support and words of encouragement also buoyed me through many difficult days.

Workplace Policies: Having an understanding manager who didn’t penalize me for occasional home life intrusions prevented additional stress.

Self-Care: While difficult to prioritize, making time for basic self-care like exercise, meditation/prayer and socializing with friends outside my family has been critical to survive this intense period without burning out completely. Self-compassion and celebrating small wins were also important mindset shifts.

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

Provide paid parental leave policies (maternal and paternal) for an adequate duration Offer flexible work arrangements like remote options, part-time schedules, job-shares Ensure accessible, affordable and high-quality on-site childcare facilities Implement re-entry programs to support mothers returning to work after career breaks Offer mentorship programs connecting new mom employees with other parent mentors Address biases around perceived commitment, competence of mothers in STEM

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

1. Mentor and sponsor: Actively mentor students, interns, or new professionals who are mothers or aspiring to become mothers. Provide advice, share experiences honestly, and sponsor their growth through opportunities.

2. Advocate for policies: Use our voices and influence to persistently advocate for family-friendly policies within our organizations, academic institutions, and the overall STEM industry. Promote measures like paid parental leave, lactation rooms, childcare support, etc.

3. Raise visibility: Amplify the stories and accomplishments of fellow mothers in STEM through interviews, speaking engagements, articles etc. Increased representation and role models can inspire the next generation.

4. Build communities: Create or get involved with networking groups, working parent circles, and support communities that connect mothers in STEM locally and digitally. These can provide invaluable solidarity.

5. Shift mindsets: Challenge biases around working mothers’ capabilities and commitment within our spheres of influence through data and personal examples of thriving. Dispel societal myths.

6. Offer flexibility: As managers and team leaders, role model and normalize family-friendly cultures by distributing work accommodations flexibly based on seasonality and employees’ needs as mothers.

7. Start conversations: Initiate dialogues around motherhood and its implications during career planning meetings or workshops to increase awareness and advocacy.

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

Cultivate a strong support system early, have candid conversations about navigating both roles with potential employers, and above all, stay determined yet flexible in your journey as both a professional and parent.