Women in Engineering Inspiring Positive Change: Abigail Akinyi

Abigail is a diploma holder in civil engineering from Kitale National Polytechnic, she has two years working experience and is currently working at Primaks contractors limited based in Kakamega as the site supervisor. She has previously worked for Mashtashal Construction Company and Bercy holdings limited in Kakamega Kenya. When she is not working, being in civil engineering, Abigail watches construction documentaries. Abigail spends her free time watching movies and series, listening to music and browsing.

Women in Engineering Inspiring Positive Change: Abigail Akinyi
Women in Engineering Inspiring Positive Change: Abigail Akinyi

Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like

A: Each day to me is typically different, since I am not permanently employed. When there is work I wake up in the morning get on site have to arrange the work schedule for the day, stay on site the whole day as I supervise the work being done. There are days when there is no work that’s due to lack of materials on site, the rest of my day mostly morning hours and afternoon I check out my LinkedIn, email, Whatsapp, telegram to see any jobs advertised matching my profile for me to apply. The rest of the day I practice Archicad drawings, sometime I visit construction sites around to see how different structures are constructed and let employers know I am open for work.

Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into civil engineering? What inspired you?

A: No I always wanted to do journalism it was my dream career until when my high schools results came in and I had scored grade C. I was not able to join university directly because it was below the entry cut off points. I therefore enrolled in a polytechnic college near my home town. At the polytechnic, I could not pursue my dream course, journalism.

My father being my number one cheerleader kept telling me that regardless, I was destined for greatness. I can say he inspired me being in the engineering field himself and having seen him grow to where he is now in the industry. He kept challenging me to believe in myself and being in the engineering field himself, he encouraged me to pursue a civil engineering diploma. That is how I ended up being in engineering and I do not regret it at all, I love what I am doing.

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?

Being a lady in STEM is the hardest part especially during a job search, many times I was underestimated to a point that I got underpaid because most employers would think that I could not do the work. I have been always given work assignments under a man because they think am not capable to take care of a site myself. In other instances, I have found myself always being assigned to office work while my male colleagues are send to site. In such instances, I do my job and let them judge me with my deliverables.

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: The number of women in STEM is really alarming, we are very few in this field and if nothing is done, the number will keep going down in future. The fact that we are underestimated and never seen as engineers that’s what makes things hard for us, it takes time even on site for someone to notice that you’re in charge. I was once an assistant site forelady and every time a visitor or worker looking for job came to site, they would ignore me and go ahead to ask the site workers where they could find the site’s foreman. They would always be sent right back to me.

Women are few in stem because of discouragement that they cannot do it, in college in my first year when I joined I remember several men asking me if I was sure I wanted to do civil engineering. During my time at the polytechnic, I witnessed a good number of people failing some units and I panicked a little at first. I did not lose hope because I had made up my mind to do civil and I went ahead and gave it my all. We should do lots of awareness seminar to guide young ladies and girls who want to join STEM, most of them fear they cannot do it.

Q: How will you explain your engineering field to young girls?

I will tell them that civil engineering is interesting, that the world needs us, to have a home, school, airport, hospitals etc. I will tell them that civil engineers are the bedrock of any other structure around the world without us, movement will be terrible, and there would be no shelter and other structures. It’s a career that I can stop at nothing to do it again and again advance more and make sure am the best in the industry to create long lasting historical structures.

Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?

A: To be go getters and that by getting into engineering they should understand it’s tough but worth it. it’s the best choice any lady can make, it makes you think wider in so many perspectives and in no single day will you ever regret being an Engineer.

Hi! I am Brenda Rombo, a mechanical engineer, a writer and a dreamer but you can call me Bee. In 2014 I started a platform to discuss the various issues and emerging technologies in Engineering. During my years both as a student and an engineer I have always been fascinated with new and emerging technologies and diversity and inclusion.

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