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Celebrating Women in Male-dominated Roles (Tochukwu Agunwah, Senior Structural Engineer)

Hi, I am Tochukwu Agunwah.

I am a Senior Structural Designer.

I play in a Gender-Stereotyped Space

How safe do you feel in this male-dominated space?

I have never felt unsafe working in this sort of environment. I hear of women having the fear of harassment and even being harassed, but that has never been my story. So, I would say I feel very comfortable and safe.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to work through as a woman in this space?

One of the greatest challenges I have had to face is walking through the interview door, for a supposedly male role, and it’s a woman showing up. Most of the time the conversation doesn’t start off with the actual interview question, it’s always about why I decided to study Engineering and talks about Engineering ladies being ugly and I’m not.  One other challenge is having to prove to your interviewer that already has a mindset that you can do this job even better.

What was the ultimate drive towards this profession and what has been the motivation all along?

Honestly, I never wanted to study Engineering, but fate pushed me into it. Having found myself in it, I decided to pull through. On starting my career, I realized I was one of the very few ladies in the industry with so many men. I decided it would be good to learn the job and remain competitive in the industry. This is still my motivation.

What were your loved ones stand on this chosen profession of yours?

Everyone in my home has been supportive. In fact, I have a sister that is an Engineer as well and she’s been very supportive.

What are the main challenges you have faced as a woman in this profession?

Like I said earlier, having to prove that you are fit for the role. Another major challenge is being paid somewhat lower than your male counterpart notwithstanding having the same level of experience and skill.

What are the benefits you gain as a woman in this profession?

The love is always amazing. My male colleagues always treat me specially. They’re always willing to assist me if I have a need. I also get to know more about men since I am in the midst of them more often.

Was there any point you almost gave up?

Yes, many times. One of which was during my study. During my second year in the university, the courses became very tough. I was always frustrated during studies until I met a fellow woman, we began to study together and that made a lot of difference. One other time was in my first place of work when I was pregnant with my first baby. I had a boss that was never supportive. He always frowned at me for going for my antenatal clinic.

If yes, what kept you going?

I knew those moments were for a season.

I must say that your line of work is not a go-to space for women, why did you choose to specialize here?

Fate brought me here and I am grateful for it.

What are the top three things women aspiring to come into this space need to know?

One, they need to put in the work. It’s not a bed of roses. It may require sleepless nights. Because it is seen as a male role, you need to prove yourself to stand a chance. Be ready to stand the heat.

Two, know your place. As a woman, we are superior. We think better, we analyze better. When you understand this and develop the ability to handle men and make them feel safe around you, they would even hold the ladder for you to climb. Do not come like you are at war with them. In other words, build your interpersonal skills.

Three, put your career into consideration while choosing a partner. You need your partner’s support the most.

Could you give us some sneak peeps into your personal daily rules in your profession?

If anyone can, I can too. Have fun and do not let a job spill into the next day except it’s inevitable.

Who is your role model?

Michelle Obama

Do you wish other women take up roles as yours? Why?

Yes, I encourage women to develop a career around Science, Engineering, and Technology. The remunerations in those fields are better and there are more opportunities. They also create the opportunity for women to be on the table and it comes with a certain level of respect as you tend to let the world know that what a man can do, a woman can do it even better.

What do you have to say to other women?

The global world is experiencing a major disparity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). We need more women to challenge the status quo. There is nothing we cannot do if we set our minds to it. Go for it girl! The ability to achieve greatness lies within us. I also appeal to parents to encourage their girls to pick up courses in STEM. It’s not meant for boys alone. We need to develop ourselves to be able to be called to the table.

What are your social media handles?

Instagram Tochy_emy, Facebook Tochi Ikea Agunwah


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