We can’t do it because we are women

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My name is Angela Mugo. I am a software developer. Originally, I wanted to do analytical chemistry, but then when I started to do it, I realised I didn’t like it.

I wanted to go more into hardware. To work with heavy power, current and that kind of thing and so that is why I ended up doing electrical engineering. Me and a girlfriend of mine, we decided to go to this company.

They told us: “The thing we do is a lot of technical work. There is a lot of pole climbing, a lot of dragging heavy wires and everything. We don’t think you can manage to do that. “

We did challenge them and ask them if they had women. They would tell us the men would go out and get reading and fix things. Then they would come, tell you what they did and then you would write the report.

When a company finally decided to give me a chance, I was very excited and then I went for my first day. Someone saw me and said, “Oh, we are so excited to have you here. Work will definitely be better and we have something to look forward to when we come to work -seeing your pretty face.”

To some extent I had to do a lot of suppressing my femininity so that they could accept me as one of them. Allow me to drag those things, allow me to climb poles, be on top of machines, those things.

After school I started to search for jobs. The more I looked, the more I saw that the women hired did just desk jobs. I was certain I didn’t want to do that. After all this resistance, I felt I did not fit in.

I decided to change career path and venture into software engineering. I find software engineering amazing. Mostly because there have been more women coming into the workforce.

I had this incident maybe like two years ago. I wanted to do a task where I was going to be writing code. There was one guy in the team who kept insisting: “No, you are going to do the design.” This is because, typically in software engineering, women do the design.

One of the most powerful images has been to meet women who are working in STEM (Science Technology and Mathematics). Seeing women striving in these industries speaks to us so much. Women who have already gone through the system, they need to show up and be there for the upcoming ones.

It is important to bring them in. Like when someone joins a new workplace, find out how they’re doing, how you can help.

Kenya’s labour laws state that employers shall not discriminate a prospective employee in grounds of sex et al yet women like Angela continue to face discrimination in heavily male dominated industries. It takes perseverance and a strong will to stay in these fields, for a woman to succeed.

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