Many Nigerian women are shattering barriers and breaking into fields usually dominated by their male counterparts. The women folk have evolved and are breaking new grounds, dispelling the archaic belief that strenuous, highly technical and intellectual jobs are the exclusive preserve of men. Gone are the days when women were discouraged not to aspire to be like their male counterparts. These days there is almost no profession where you will not find women who are not only doing great, but also conquering the field. Nigerian women have continued to prove that they are not second fiddle to their male folks, hence the saying; “what a man can do, a woman can do even better” is no longer a mere aphorism, but has become a reality.
Male folk have no choice than to share ‘their’ professions like finance, medicine, engineering, driving heavy duty/articulated vehicles, commercial vehicles, among others which they previously exact authority and dominance in with the female folks. Nigerian women now compete side by side with their male counterparts in any chosen profession without compromising their femininity or roles as wives and mothers. One of such women is the immediate past Rector of the Ogun State Institute of Technology (OGITECH), Dr. Olufunke Olanike Akinkurolere, who has at different times led the engineering profession both in Nigeria and abroad.
More female engineers
Having risen through the ranks to become a leader, Akinkurolere is now championing the cause for more female engineers in Nigeria by mentoring young girls to take up engineering courses. Akinkurolere argued that, for women to walk in a male dominated terrain to bridge occupational gender gap, they need to work twice as hard to gain the professional respect of their male counterparts. The former Rector is advocating for more government investment in technical and vocational education with special attention on the girl-child, for the economic advancement of Nigeria. She noted that women cannot help but notice the deep-seated gender bias prevalent across Nigerian industries and called for the elimination of the artificial barriers, such as early marriage, lack of quality education, among others, often placed before women to prevent them from excelling.
Two female students
“I have been advocating for more females in this field. When I was processing my admission, there were only two female students. So in a Class of 22, we had only women. “One of the ways to encourage young female students is by telling them our testimonies, because I have discovered that in engineering, female students always outshine their male counterparts. “They (female students) should not be intimidated by their male counterparts. Though it is a male dominated profession, I can tell you that female engineers are doing well in the profession now,” Akinkurolere said. She noted that Nigeria needs more female engineers for innovations that would provide solutions to problems peculiar to the women folks. The former Rector insisted that Nigeria must change her story by not only encouraging girls to take up science courses, but also by giving special attention to the training of the girl-child in professions such as engineering. She also advocated for more sensitisation of women to understand the profession better, this according to her would propel more girls to get into the study of engineering to excel in the profession. Akinkurolere commended the Association of Nigeria Women Engineers for its efforts aimed at encouraging young girls into engineering and advancing the professional development of practising female engineers. While advising the association to design a programme that would inspire younger females to take up careers in engineering, Akinkurolere said, engineering remains one of the professions where women can thrive if given the required support.
Her words: “No nation can have any meaningful development without skills development. Getting a degree is different from having a skill. We may know the theory, but do we actually have the skill? You may have a degree and diploma, make sure you have a skill and that is everything about Vocational and Technical education. “We want skilled labourers in our nation. When you look at Nigeria’s population, we have more youths than some other countries, so we should use this to our advantage. “All we are advocating for is skill and that is what polytechnic education is meant for. I know of a friend who has a B.Sc. in Chemistry, but today, she is a journalist. “We have been advocating that the government should invest more in this sector. When we are talking about skill, we need to train people because you cannot acquire skill theoretically. We are advocating that we should involve industries more, because these are some of the things that actually help. We also need skilled man-power in our nation Nigeria. The future is bright for us in this nation, we just need to get things right. We should train our youths and give them skills. We have vibrant youths in Nigeria.”
Sharing her success story, Akinkurolere said: “When I took over as the second rector of OGTECH in 2014, there were 11 accredited courses and 18 programmes. We went straight to work, looking for how we can improve on our programmes and today, there are 35 fully accredited programmes. “OGTECH is now a polytechnic of choice. We improved on infrastructure. When I came in, the foundation of the multipurpose hall was only laid so we started with that and because of my profession as a civil engineer; we were able to put that in place. “We ensured that whatever we were doing could stand the test of time. All the projects under my supervision are of standard. “We did land scrapping, we constructed bigger auditoriums. We constructed a multi-million naira twin lecture hall, which was named after the incumbent governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
“When you go around our campus, you will see almost everything with a blue roof, they were constructed during my tenure as the rector. The Mass Communication Department with the brown roof was constructed and equipped by me. “There was a building that was burnt down by fire, we reconstructed it. We also built a twin hall for ICT. We have over 300 computer systems there. Most of these things were done from our IGR through the support of the government. “There is a laboratory for the Engineering Department, it’s a storey building that has eight standard laboratories, furnished and equipped. In the School of Science, I can count the number of offices with air conditioners.”