Girls Can Succeed in STEM if Determined’
Rose Madaki is the first female Chairman of the Nigeria Society of Engineers. In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, she explained how girls can make it in the area of STEM, saying with determination, they could produce optimal results better than their male counterparts. She also highlighted efforts her administration took to ensure that women are well represented in the society which enhanced their exposure and learningAs the first female Chairman of Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Victoria Island Branch, what were your impacts on female engineers in the country?
We created a tracker for our gender focused initiatives hence it is easy to recall specific impact areas for our primary constituency. In this regard, I can state clearly that we improved awareness for gender gap and worked assiduously to close it. We ensured that women are represented in every activity we carried out. This led to improved female representation. Under my watch, the number of females in the executive council rose from one to five. The gender ratio improved to 5:8 from a previous ratio of 1:13. Also, under my leadership, we produced 12 NSE fellows out of whom six were women; two fellows of NiMechE, out of whom one was a woman, only one fellow of the Chemical Society of Engineers NCheE who is also a woman. We raised our branch membership from 800 to 1,200 members from 2017 to 2019.
We made substantial contributions to the fortunes of NSE Lagos Zone and raised the profile of the branch by attracting more members. In collaboration with GIZ a German-based company, we trained over 100 engineers, of which about 20 women benefitted. We held talk shows to encourage more engineers to develop interest in politics. Our talk show was aptly captioned ‘Engineers in Politics talk show’ held at NSE Lagos Secretariat. We also held an international conference and exhibition in collaboration with G5 Construction, Dubai here in Lagos, with a woman as the coordinator. It was a very good experience and served to motivate and give exposure to engineering professionals.
You were also the first female to become the chairperson of all Nigerian chairman constituting 78 branches of NSE, what lessons did you learn from this and what effort did you make in bringing on board more women into the society?
In NSE council during my tenure, there were only four women in the council at that time. We ensured that all the women in the council were involved in the available committees. We also worked hard to ensure that a woman was elected as the chairman of Business and Rule Committee of NSE. This made for involvement, exposure and learning. We also motivated and supported women aspirants for the vice chairmanship of two branches. The idea is that they are positioned to become the chairperson of those branches at future dates. Their success will inspire and motivate other women to aspire to leadership positions.
Under our belt, we had GIZ training of 23 engineers with 10 women trained and certified as auditor on energy management system. Some of the lessons I learnt while in this leadership as a woman in a male dominated profession were: first I love and appreciate myself as a woman that I had the opportunity to without disappointing the women fold by bringing in more women to the position of leadership. Every woman must deliberately create opportunity and avenue of growth for her fellow woman, we must be seen loving ourselves, wish us well in all our endeavours. We must not give room for divide and rule by our male counterparts.
What effort did your administration make in enabling innovation and technological advancement for the benefit of the country and members in general?
We collaborated with Ornament Engineering and authored, published and launched ICT books for primary one to six scrutinised by curriculum then finally approved by Lagos State Government for use. We embarked on community development programmes where we donated some ICT books, laptop and desktop computers, computer chairs and tables, office cabinets to selected rural schools at Iwerekun Primary and Secondary Schools and Bogije Primary School, Ibeju Lekki for free. Also we donated 70 units of pupils’ chair and table to over eight classes and refurbished the broken ones in the schools as well. With the support of some our partners, we donated these ICT books to school in Ogba-Lagos, Yelwa Primary School Maiduguri, Borno State, LGEA Primary School Ankpa, Kogi State, Benue and Niger States. We also initiated a very strong Innovation team who organised vocational Skill acquisition (VoSAT) for engineers and their spouses. Some of which were solar panel installation, laptop/phone repairs, plumbing, generator repairs,
soap/detergent/perfume/bleach /liquid soap making, fascinator making, make over, gele tieing, interior décor and shoe/bag making for two weeks and today the participants are making a living out of these vocational trainings. We partnered with Total PLC for job opportunity for engineers. The contract was awarded and engineers across the country were shortlisted for the Job. We established and built strong collaboration with Bank of Industry for SME opportunity of our young engineers who need financial support, while the branch would serve as a collateral. We also partnered with Defence Institute Corporation of Nigeria for the recruitment of engineers and it is work in progress. As it is, the branch has signed an agreement with Oriental Hotel Lagos for all engineers across the country to have 10 per cent discount payment fees each time they want to use the facility. We organised job fair for Nigerian engineers where employers were invited to meet prospective employees for job engagement. About 3,457 persons across the country participated in the interview with about 15 NSE members gained employment through this exercise.
Engineering seems to be losing its grip especially in the rural areas, what effort did your administration make in reactivating it in schools in such areas and how would you describe the response and impact?
During my administration, there was a very serious gap identified in our educational system right from the foundational level. I had to institute career talk in secondary schools. We visited some government schools in Lekki (Maroko Junior and Senior Secondary Schools) and sensitised them on the importance of engineering activities and profession. We organised technical training on piping engineering, 3D printing training, cost engineering, among others, with facilitators invited from within and outside of the country. We embarked on international industrial trip with Nigerian engineers to expose them to new and modern technology that could be useful to their communities. Places visited so far were Italy, in November 2018, Italy, Spain, Germany in April 2019, and Italy, France and Netherlands in November 2019. These visits really added value to the participants.
Research and Development (R&D) constitute a crucial ingredient in the search for the development of a nation, what did your administration do to galvanise this among members?
Under my leadership, I developed an engineering hub for engineering research, specifically on information technology. This quest was channelled to the headquarters for financial support. They promised to collaborate with my leadership to expand the module to other branches. I was the first to initiate that. We partnered with Nigerian Army of Engineers for knowledge exchange (Research and Development). Training has commenced based on this collaboration. Aside these, we created a functional SSL secure website to position the branch both locally and internationally. We have a well established and active website. We created a registration number for all Victoria Island branch members. It means every member has a registration number. We purchased and created customised emails for all EXCOs for effective communication.
We published a paged mini-magazine called the ‘Island Engineers’, to showcase the branch activities which is done monthly. We also have developed a quarterly newsletter of the branch activities. We have deployed a central collaborative reporting tool for branch activities and gave opportunities for student engineers for IT placement. Also allotted a slot for an engineer to come for national youth service annually. We organised an annual meeting with young engineers to discuss their challenges tagged ‘Young Engineers’ Forum’. The branch now has a designed prototype of a proposed VI secretariat which plan to generate funds for the development has been initiated. We have also instituted regular industrial visits to relevant engineering companies and organisations, instituted career-engineering talks to schools on quarterly basis, as well as quarterly courtesy visits and distinctive annual lecture in honour of the President of NSE, Babagana Mohammed.
What will be your advise to girls aspiring for a future in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)?
To educate a man is to educate an individual, but to educate a woman is to educate a nation, what that means is a woman is a nation builder. The best country that managed COVID-19 is Taiwan and the President is a woman. She has fewer victims with fewer deaths.
There is no leadership position that a woman cannot do much better because she is known to be a good manager even by nature because she can multi-task and produce optimal result. Engineering is not by size or gender, but by the substance in the brain. We can rule the world, yes we can, hence go and occupy