Engineering Women Inspiring Positive Change – Angeline Kalisia
Angeline Kalisia is the acting factory manager at a privately owned tea factory in Nandi county. She has bachelors in Agricultural and Bio systems Engineering from Moi University, a registered graduate engineer with the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) and is currently pursuing her masters in the same field at the University of Eldoret. She has previously worked with a multinational tea producer as an assistant factory manager and also with Mumias Sugar Company both in the factory section as well as the agricultural department. Currently she is a member of Nandi North departmental heads as well as part of covid-19 emergency response team.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
A: Part of what I do involves making sure that factory operations are running smoothly in terms of processing by making the best teas as cost effective as possible. Also maintaining smooth working relationship between the management and the farmers. Making sure that farmers are paid in a timely matter. Handling any disputes that may arise between farmers community and the management as well as making sure that all factory KPIs are met.
A typical day would involve going through the processing line first thing in the morning and tasting the tea liquors. Solving any machinery or labor issues that may have come up during the night shift. Handling any farmers’ issues that may arise during the course of the day.
Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into Agricultural and Bio Systems Engineering? What inspired you?
A: Actually No. I never thought that I would study engineering but since I was good at math and science subjects I ended up being called to study Agricultural and Bio systems engineering and since I didn’t have a plan B so here I am. I am also the type of person that doesn’t give up on a challenging equation or situation I like figuring out the solutions.
Q: I don’t think it’s any secret that many women in STEM have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived and/or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
A: In every place I have worked, the ratio of women to men is quite low, very low not even a third of the work force. Being a woman has both negative and positive effects. One advantage is that since we are few, we get priority in terms of employment and promotion but of course you have got to be a hard worker as well.
The negative aspects are normally more first the cultural aspects whereby women are not expected to be in that kind of work more so in authority. It doesn’t go well with the other gender in general. Also, there is presence of sexual harassment from men in authority to the employees especially those under them. These women that have no proper education are always in fear of losing their jobs and end up giving sexual favors to secure their employment, and remember this isn’t even a permanent job. That’s why more women need to get educated as this will help to empower them.
At one place I worked the policies applied only to men and u realize that they didn’t anticipate having women in the same management positions. The worst came when I was passed over a promotion for being a woman and the “wrong tribe”. Talking to other women you realize that this happens more often than not. Am not giving up because I need our daughters to see women out there on top and know that they too can reach there.
Q: What is your take on the number of women in engineering? Why do you think that’s the case? What do you think can be done to change that?
A: Even in school we were in a class of about 77 with only 7 ladies and most classes ahead of us had an average of two women per class. Most ladies are discouraged from a younger age to take the sciences having the notion that sciences are hard and hence more inclined to the male gender. We can change that mindset from a younger age maybe primary to empower the girl child to follow whatever dreams they have and to know that they are equally capable to succeed in any field of STEM they want to pursue.
Q: How would you explain your Engineering field to young girls?
A: What I do involves agricultural machinery and processing. I look at the machines and what they do and how they can help us make the best tea leaves (for now). In simple words I manage the operations in a tea factory.
Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?
A: Whatever you want to do, you can do it, but you have to be willing to put in the extra effort and work hard.
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