“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” Those were the famous words of Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, first person to win it twice & the only one to win in 2 different sciences. Women for so long have believed or have been believed not to be made for science or mathematics but we are out to discard that false narrative. So for once, we’ll ignore Marie and be curious about people as we inquire into the groundbreaking life of Opeyemi Olujobi…
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Opeyemi Olujobi, a graduate of Electrical/Electronics Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure. I have an avid interest in creating innovative solutions using technology to meet human needs. I currently work in an FMCG company. I am also passionate about women and the girl-child. I love writing and singing and I am fun to be with.
So can we start with your experience in the university as a female engineer?
To start with, I don’t think there is such a thing as a female engineer, (just as you wouldn’t say a female doctor or female lawyer), I believe these are just clichés to aid segregation. My experience as an engineering student in the university was an interesting one filled with so many life lessons that have molded me to be who I am today. I was overjoyed when I gained admission to study Electrical/Electronic Engineering, but got push backs from many people who were concerned if I could cope as a woman in this chosen field including females. These concerns from people only made me stronger.
To be truthful, it wasn’t easy. It took diligence, hard work, resilience and prayers to succeed. I had supportive people around me that helped me overcome the challenges I faced. To God be the glory, I graduated top of my class.
Then, how was it like trying to get a job as a female who studied engineering?
Let me start with my experience trying to get an internship. I applied to an organization (that I will not name) for an engineering intern position. Unfortunately, I was not selected for the role. I was told a male was preferred for the job. I was disappointed and heartbroken and I remember thinking why would I go through all that stress in school, only to graduate and hear this. Fast-forward to some months later, I reached out through a sponsor and was called to resume. This time, on a mission to change the narrative, I worked with every iota of strength in me, and when I concluded, one of the feed-backs I got was that I outperformed even my male counterparts and they were excited to have worked with me. It meant a lot to me and encouraged me to do better wherever I found myself, and in fact birthed my life statement to be the reason why another woman is given the chance in my profession.
In recent years, the narratives are changing. People now think differently and the cloaks of gender bias are gradually being thrown out.
How many places have you worked at now? If more than one, ask, can you compare your experiences as a female engineer in these places?
Like I said earlier, people are becoming more receptive to the idea of having more females in male-dominated professions. In the past, I would often have to prove myself; even outperform my male colleagues to be noticed and accepted as competent. One good thing is once you are noted as a person who delivers results, the gender cloak is pulled off and you are respected as the professional you are, and not a female.
Fast forward to now, I have it much easier, because it’s a great organization with a good gender culture and there are many females who are making waves in the organization.
What do you think are the challenges of female engineers in the industry?
The challenges are summarized in the following points: Gender bias and Work-life balance. Gender bias in that, there are some fields, especially in STEM, where some still have archaic perceptions that some roles or jobs are more suited to a particular gender. So no matter what you do or how brilliant or efficient you are, you are prejudged and found not fit.
Finding balance between work and raising a family can be challenging. This can be a serious issue for females in the industry as you climb the ladder. You are overlooked severally or your career path would be decided for you because of the thinking that some roles will affect your ability to deliver because of your family responsibilities. Therefore, as women, we have to learn to manage this and ensure one does not suffer for the other.
How do you think we can ignite the interest of more girls to dabble into engineering, and STEMs generally?
One way is to enlighten girls on the prospects of the fields in STEM. I remember growing up and constantly looking for women who were excelling in my field, to inspire me. I believe that seeing other women doing well in these fields would be a motivation for young girls.
Also, incentivizing the girl-child education in STEM i.e. scholarships, internships would encourage more girls to take up interest in STEM courses.
Finally, what’s your message to other girls aspiring to be engineers out there.
My message is from Marianne Williamson’s quote which reads, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”.
Do not let others determine your future, or state what you are capable of or not. Take your destiny in your own hands and whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.
Shine your light so bright and let the world marvel at your luminiscence. I would say this to you: Lady, dream it, believe it, equip yourself with knowledge, focus, and the sky is just your starting point.
Remember, be that girl or woman who paves a way for another woman.
Thank you! God bless you! Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!