Unfortunately, it is still our reality as women to face workplace challenges — lack of respect, overt and insidious sexual harassment, man-terruptions — simply because we are women.
These challenges are magnified for women working in male-dominated fields. From “bro-culture” to assumptions you don’t know how to do your job on the basis of your gender, women working in these fields go to work every day already saddled with the task of proving their worth and abilities — a weight their male colleagues do not bear.
Fiona Osiro is a 26 years old Engineer from Kenya. She has a Bachelors degree in Civil Service Engineering, as well as an MSc in Urban Management and Development.
In this interview, she talks about working in a male-dominated field and being good at what she does.
How did you get started in your field?
When I was younger I really wanted to be a journalist but as I got older my path was redirected mainly due to influence from my parents and uncles. I’m surrounded by many professional Engineers and I followed suit.
Working in a male-dominated field, how do you keep yourself pumped daily?
The field of Civil Engineering is definitely male dominated, which comes with many challenges. Proving yourself to be as able-bodied both physically and mentally can be a huge barrier.
People still get taken aback when I talk about my academic background and career path. People assume that I probably know too much or know too little. So I feel like I’ve had to work twice as hard as my male peers in proving myself which shouldn’t be the case.
My desire to make a difference in the world, make my family proud and be an example to the young women who want to venture into the field gets me pumped up for the day.I’ve had to work twice as hard as my male peers in proving myself which shouldn’t be the case. - Fiona Osiro Click To Tweet
What advice would you give to men working with strong females
I’d advice men working with strong females to try not to feel the need to “baby” us.
I suppose it may come naturally to protect women around them, but at the same time, we’re coming into a male-dominated field ready to prove ourselves and be treated as equals.
Because we basically are equals out in the field, probably just with manicured nails occasionally 😉
What have you learned about yourself over the years and what are some traits that you really had to work on to be successful?
- I’ve learned to not be so defensive. I initially had the attitude that I had to fight for recognition and acceptance by any means necessary.
- I also learned that being a woman in such a field is such a unique and blessed opportunity, being able to be an example for others and to add a touch of grace while at it is something I relish.
- I’ve learned to say no to free lunches. Pay for yourself, especially when everyone else is doing so, this will earn you the respect you deserve especially with your peers in the field.
- Finally, take every opportunity to learn and grow. Connect with other people in the industry from different organizations, backgrounds, culture, and fields.
Take advantage of the unique opportunities set aside for women in male-dominated fields to grow. These opportunities are available and as women who want to make a difference, we should not shy away from making use of them.
How do you make your voice heard?
I know for sure that I do not have to be loud and aggressive to be heard but I must be very articulate, respectful and firm.
I’ve had to sit in meetings where I was the only female and the youngest as well. I already stood out, so I learned to take advantage of that and prove myself.
What advice would you give upcoming young women leaders in the industry?
I’d advise young women leaders in this industry to have a clear vision of what they’d like to achieve for themselves and for those they serve in their position.
Don’t be ashamed to be different, use it as an added advantage. Respect others and finally, put God first. There may be many obstacles to face, but upholding your morals and drawing strength from God will bring down any obstacle.I do not have to be loud and aggressive to be heard but I must be very articulate, respectful and firm. - Fiona Osiro Click To Tweet
If you could throw a parade of any caliber through your office, what type of parade would it be?
Parade? Is there a parade that involves cooking and eating? Because that would be my happy place. 😉
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