Name: Sue Wairimu
Company: Ladies in Helmets Initiative (LiH)
What does International Women’s Day mean to you, and why is it important?
For me, International Women’s Day signifies the progress that women have made all over the world in the economic, political, social, and more so in the traditionally male-dominated professions. It is important because it is the one day that we get to boldly celebrate our achievements, teach the younger generation about how far we have come and set goals for the next challenge that we need to focus on.
The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge; how will you help forge a gender equal world?
This is a very timely theme for our initiative as we have chosen to challenge the access to resources that exist for women in the remote areas of Kenya.
We want to ease the access to resources such as information, learning materials, knowledge and training support through a mentorship and leadership program.
We believe that mentorship can provide valuable support for young girls at critical points in their student and professional lives, helping to later transition them into a more gender equal world.
I believe increasing women’s social capital can work to reduce the gender gap in technical professions and that is what LiH is focusing on.
When it comes to your current role in the broader construction sector, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities?
According to a construction capacity survey held by National Construction Authority (NCA) in 2014, it was found that women were underrepresented in the construction industry occupying only 19% with only 7% of them owning construction contracting firms. This is one of the biggest challenges that exist.
How do we increase the percentages of women in the construction industry and build them up to a leadership position? This is one of the challenges that LiH has chosen to address.
Other challenges are the lack of experienced mentors to look up to and interact with within a professional setting.
Opportunities exist in equipping young women with capital to start businesses in the industry, provide tailored training on how to utilise communication and management skills and lastly, supporting the organisations and initiatives that focus on women empowerment.
How can we encourage more women to pursue a career in the broader construction sector?
To begin with, increasing the visibility of women as positive role models in construction. Secondly, providing mentorship and job-shadowing to younger women in their formative years in their careers. Thirdly, supporting and being part of organisations that support training and networking for women.
What advice would you give to any young women thinking about starting their career in the broader construction sector?
Go for it! Find a community of women and a mentor to walk with you on your journey. Take the jobs that come your way, volunteer, and go to seminars/conferences. Make sure you ask questions or give a comment. Be brave in the quest to learn more about the dynamics that exist in the industry. Network! Network! Network! Then learn how to maintain those relationships.
What will success look like for you at the end of the year? What will make you think that 2021 has been a successful year for you career-wise?
Towards the end of last year, we began an initiative dubbed “Pesi Youth Leadership Programme” in a rural community in Kenya. We will be mentoring the girls and boys in the community by equipping them with the knowledge to improve their performance in school and engage them in practical life skills such as construction and environmental sustainability activities to improve their community. Sustaining this initiative, recruiting more mentors, and making an impact in this community will be a success for me.