When engineering is mentioned, the mental picture that comes to mind is never feminine, you think grease, engines and heavy lifting- attributes that one cannot easily attached to females. But, Chinenye Ezeakor has not only made a career in this male dominated field, she has also taken it upon herself to bridge the gender gap in the STEM profession.
In pursuit of this goal, Chinenye started African Sisters in STEM (A-SISTEM), a Nigerian based organisation that encourages young women to pick up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Through A-SISTEM, she has created a platform for young and talented women in STEM to network and also mentor girls to grow in the field.
“We are a start-up organisation that wants to revamp the African education system and empower young women. It is a growing network, which hopes to breed a generation of STEM professional women that train, engage and network with one another.”
She believes that one of the reasons for the continuous decline of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is due to a dearth of female role models, exposure and opportunities to grow in the field.
“This piqued my interest in building a network for interactive learning and collaborations among African women in STEM” she said.
Chinenye is a Mandela Washington Fellow with several awards from both local and international organizationsin recognition of her work.
Nonetheless, the story of building A-SISTEM is not complete without a mention of the challenges and hurdles that Chinenye has had to cross to ensure her vision for the organization remains alive.
Combining the demands of a growing community based start-up with a full time job has had its toll, Chinenye said in an interview. She, however, added that with the help of her devoted team members, tasks and projects are divided and diligently managed.
When asked what drives her to do what she does, she said “Oh yes, I have always had to make difficult decisions to overcome both personal and other challenges over the years.I have always wanted to inspire people. I want people to look at me and say, “You know what? I want to be like you some day”, adding that her strength lies in people who believe in her and challenge her to think outside the box.
She believes in the uniqueness of both males and females but would rather relate with people as humans rather than through gender lens or other similar biases.
Chinenye’s only wish is to see Africa become the economic and political envy of other continents.
So far, A-SISTEM has reached over 500 teenage girls.