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Global Women Engineers AG Leaders Mark International Day for Women and Girls in Science

Learn more about the session featuring Affinity Group leaders Ophelia Fernandes and Abosede Adewole.
Global Women Engineers Affinity Group

The Abuja Chapter of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) marked the International Day for Women and Girls in Science on 17 Feb. with a fireside chat featuring Ophelia Fernandes from John Deere India as the guest speaker and Abosede Adewole as the discussion host. Ophelia and Abosede also serve as core team members of the SWE Global Women Engineers Affinity Group.

The session commenced with Kaltumi Giwa, chairperson of APWEN, sharing an insightful quote by John C Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” The event shed light on the significance of STEM fields to a nation’s economy, while acknowledging the persistent gender disparity in STEM and advocating for increased representation of women in these fields. APWEN remains committed to promoting and advocating for women in STEM.

She shared that a visit to her father’s automobile factory and a good score in science subjects are what inspired her to opt for science as she grew up. At a time when most of the students opted for commerce or arts as mainstream subjects for girls, Ophelia chose science. She has always been keen to learn about machines and automobiles, which made her opt for mechanical engineering. In a class of 180 students, she was one of only eight girls in the mechanical engineering program — an experience that has since fueled her advocacy for women in STEM.

Ophelia further went on to talk about the challenges faced in her journey, which are pretty much like what we see in the industry. Gender bias and underrepresentation of women in leadership roles are stereotypes that judge women in leadership roles. She overcame this challenge by seeking out mentorship, which helped her build her network further.

Global Women Engineers AG Leaders Mark International Day for Women and Girls in Science

When asked about the unique quality women bring to the science and leadership role, Ophelia mentioned that women can inspire others, drive meaningful change and foster innovation. She strongly believes in empathy and collaboration. Abosede then asked Ophelia about the challenges that she sees in leadership roles. In her response, Ophelia mentioned that balancing family responsibilities with demanding career opportunities, lack of enough women role models and the right networking platform are some of the challenges. Overcoming these and promoting more inclusivity, mentorship and sponsorship are crucial. Women should uplift and support each other. Targeted and customized leadership programs should also be available for women.

Ophelia spoke about how science plays a vital role in contributing to sustainability — via innovation and best practices, resource conservation and raising public awareness. She recommended using renewable energy sources to lower the carbon footprint.

Additionally, in reference to APWEN’s theme of “Think Science and Think Peace,” and the role of science in fostering peaceful societies, Ophelia emphasized that leveraging sound scientific research can help prevent conflict and facilitate appropriate resolution. This approach enables informed decision-making and effectively addresses underlying causes of conflict.

The chat ended on a high note, with Ophelia guiding the participants to build their brand, network and confidence; look out for role models and mentors; embrace learning; be your own advocate; and lead by example. “Believe in yourself — anything is possible if only you believe” was her tagline.


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