I had already mentioned this interview briefly and in passing in the article review of when I led the discussion on #BalanceForBetter during the International Women’s Day, hosted by Ladies in Helmets at Karura Forest.
Today, I will indulge a bit more on the interview.
When Sue Wairimu, was studying her civil engineerin at JKUAT she noticed something. At that time, she was the Society of Engineering Students Chair in JKUAT, and she experienced first-hand the struggles of being a woman in the traditionally male-dominated field. It was a challenge getting students in civil and technical courses to join the club. She made it her mission to promote gender equity, and from that Ladies In Helmets was born.
Ladies in Helmets is quite a catchy phrase, how did you come up with it? And why not ladies in pants or ladies in reflectors?
End of the year 2015, I attended the first International Construction Research Conference and Exhibition (ICORCE). Part of the conference was a scheduled site visit at Upper Hill Towers which was still under construction. Out of 30 people, we were only 5 ladies. This inspired me, but I didn’t know what exactly.
The following day we went to the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) site and we were given helmets. I was excited to own my own helmet that I ended up hanging it in the house. That is how Ladies in Helmets was born. The Helmet part is a representation of the technical fields.
There are already women in STEM, and there are bodies for women in STEM, what motivated you to start and what gap does Ladies in Helmets fill?
When you look around, so many organisations or agencies are focused on empowering women in STEM, but the focus is mostly in IT, programmers, data analysts and the ‘soft’ part of STEM as I call it. I’ve attended numerous conferences and every time I would want to meet a mentor who was in the fields of construction, I never found one.
So when the idea came to me, I knew this is it!