BY Michel Nkurunziza
The survey by the Institution of Engineers Rwanda (IER) recommended capacity-building and awareness to ensure that employers have an understanding of gender equality.
The recommendation was made on Friday, April 28, 2023, during the stakeholders’ engagement meeting after presenting the findings of the survey on the challenges faced by women engineers in practice.
The survey was carried out with the aim to enhance women’s employment in engineering considering that the profession is male-dominated.
It also recommended establishing robust frameworks and policies to counter any potential harassment against women, creating inclusive hiring processes, building an enabling environment, a clear policy on discrimination, as well as prioritising work-life balance.
Engineer Cecile Uwimana, a member of the Institution of Engineers Rwanda (IER) and project manager at Africa Catalyst in Rwanda, said the survey was part of the Africa Catalyst programme funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK.
Africa Catalyst seeks to deliver more and better engineers in every country in Africa. Its focus is the formation of engineers through universities, and through professional engineering institutions and accreditation bodies.
Uwimana said the project started in 2017 to help young graduate engineers get internships and membership to join the labour market. The project’s goal is to support at least 30 per cent of women engineers.
“In 2019, we carried out research to find out why there are few women engineers in the labour market. We monitored all local higher learning institutions and we found that 734 women engineers graduated within two consecutive years.
“However, despite this number, we realised that most of them are not on the labour market. We do not find many in internships. That is why we launched a survey to address the challenges behind such a crisis, and why they are not members of the engineers’ council,” she said.
Currently, women engineers occupy less than 10 per cent of the 2,667 Institution of Engineers Rwanda (IER) members.
Neilla Umubyeyi, a member of IER and representative of the Women Engineering-Rwanda Chapter, said the survey found that there is inequality in giving jobs to women engineers compared to men.
“Women, especially those with children, are disadvantaged in the labour market, especially in the private sector. Most are also not given high job positions. Even when they are in positions, their work is not given value as it should,” she said.
Umubyeyi added that some women face sexual harassment at work and most of them do not report the cases.
“There is a need for policies and law enforcement to ensure an enabling environment for women in employment. For instance, there is a need for breastfeeding or Early Childhood Development centres at work,” she said.
She said women engineers should change their mind-set and feel capable of big achievements in the sector. Capacity-building and awareness is the first step to ensuring employees have a comprehensive understanding of gender equality.
“We urge employers to counter any discrimination and harassment against women. The women engineers should join the engineers’ council to be able to comply with the code of ethics, and get access to capacity-building programmes and other benefits,” she said.
Edward Kyazze, Director General in charge of Urbanization, Human Settlement and Housing Development at the Ministry of Infrastructure, said bridging the gap between academia and the labour market is highly recommended.
“We have to continue raising awareness about the importance of having women engineers on the labour market. The sector of engineering is male-dominated yet women make up a big part of the population and students in schools. Women are good managers and that is why we need more women in engineering jobs,” he said.
During the discussions on Friday, it was found that only 15 per cent of high school girls go to university while out of those from university, only five per cent go to the labour market due to different challenges. Most of those who go to the labour market (60 per cent) are employed by the private sector.
Kyazze said that incentives in the private sector are needed to increase the number of women in private institutions.