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I’ll bring more girls into engineering – Iniobong Usoro, APWEN president

A civil engineer, she is the 11th president of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria. Iniobong Usoro tells NKARENYI UKONU about her life and her plans for the organisation

To say that there aren‘t as many women in the engineering field as there are men will be stating the obvious. While most women see engineering as a traditionally male terrain, others who are liberal minded don‘t mind it at all.

Yet the dreams of others who may be interested in pursuing a career in engineering is cut short because of the resentment they have for mathematics, a core determinant in becoming an engineer. But all that might soon gradually fade away as a change agent in the person of Iniobong Usoro has emerged to champion the cause for more female representation in the field.

Usoro, the president, Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, says, ”One of the things I intend to implement during my tenure is to strive to bring more girls into engineering. We intend to have career talks, where we will educate young girls, especially about the beauty of engineering.

”You can only do that which you know and if it doesn‘t exist in your horizon you won‘t know. To this end, we made a brochure outlining the various branches of engineering and explaining what they are all about. We try to give them a holistic view of engineering so that anyone making a choice would know why he or she made that choice.

”We choose primary schools because statistics have shown that that is where the problem of choice starts. By the time they are finishing secondary school, their mind is already made up on what they want to do. We will educate them on the need to be good at mathematics, which is one of the core subjects that qualify one to read engineering. They must get it right before entering secondary school. So we aim to capture them from primary school.

”To make it more appealing, we will be taking them on a tour of say a chocolate factory and show them how cookies and chocolates are made using engineering technologies from start to finish. So at that stage, the child begins to know the importance of engineering in their lives, but also with emphasis on the importance of mathematics if they need to get far in engineering. We also go to the ministry of education to speak to teachers who teach these young kids mathematics so that they don‘t send somebody who will make the kids think maths is tough.”

Besides her APWEN job, Usoro, from Akwa Ibom State, who used to work with the Federal Ministry of Works, got seconded to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, and is currently its assistant general manager, where she sees to the repairs and maintenance of Nigerian roads.

A gym freak, she took to civil engineering for a number of reasons. ”I wanted to touch lives based on my profession, but I hated the sight of blood, so medicine was not for me,” she says. ”I can‘t write long stories, so law was out of it. I‘m not much of a dramatic person so theatre arts and mass communication, were also out.

”I was a science oriented person who found maths very easy so I ended up with engineering. Besides, I had my father‘s friend, Prof. Walk, who is presently at the Michigan University of Technology. He was the one that started off the University of Ilorin. I used to like watching what he was doing back then when we were in the States.”

Born into the Lugard Etuk family, Usoro, 45, recalls memories of her childhood days. ”It was fun; my mum was a disciplinarian, although her bark was usually worse than her bite. But the fear of my mum and the cane was enough to keep us on our toes.

”My dad never smacked nor raised his voice at us but you‘d always know when you erred. He had this way of looking at one to pass across such message. He never believed that if you spare the rod, then you spoil the child. He always believed that for everything that you do, there had to be a reason for your action and so he would look more towards solving the problem.

”We went to church almost every day and I think that was why I revolted in my year one in the university by not going to church for a whole year. It was freedom to me at that time. Our life was regimented: you do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do them. That sort of regimented life is what has made me to be who I am today. I picked up a lot of leadership skills from the way we lived our lives.”

For someone who is motivated by being able to put a smile on the face of another and impacting on them, she wants to be able to lecture for free at the University of Abuja when she retires from active service. ”What the young students need is the view of a professional on the streets not the theories they get from textbooks. So I intend to do a doctorate to that effect to enable me to give informed lectures,” she says.

Having been married for 22 years to Air Vice-Marshal Stanley Usoro, Mrs. Usoro considers her greatest achievement to be ”God showing me the direction of when to marry and giving me a great guy.” She describes him as the best husband anyone could ever ask for and accepted his proposal for marriage because ”he is taller than I am, I‘m really tall and I wanted someone taller. He is also handsome and I saw him as someone with ambition.”

So by virtue of being the wife of an air vice-marshal, she is also the president of Nigerian Air Force Officers Wives Association. She speaks highly about the association. ”I joined NAFOWA as a girlfriend and whatever I am today, NAFOWA has contributed to it. I even learnt some presentation and social skills, how to be a better person and a good manager of time etc. from the body.”

Not one to go it all alone or rely on her strengths, she has quite a number of mentors from whom she draws from. ”I learn from people like Mrs. Folashade Dike, wife of Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike; Ebele Okeke, the first civil engineer to be the first head of service, a very quiet and unassuming woman who is ever willing to be of help. I also learn from Mayen Adetiba, a private sector person who is on the board of so many companies and Idiat Amusu, a lecturer who is more than a mother to me. She encouraged me to go for the APWEN presidency; she believed I had something to offer.”

A positive-minded person, Usoro does not consider anything as being a challenge to her. In fact her philosophy of life is that nothing is impossible. She says, ”Though I don‘t see challenges for what it is, I also believe that you can‘t have it rosy every day. I believe that everyone should have a bad luck in a year, you can‘t have it rosy all year round, and your own stint of what is bad must pass your way.

”The only thing is for you to pray to God to give you the grace to overcome it when yours comes and it could come in any form. It is all about having a positive attitude. Although I don‘t pray for anything too bad but whatever comes, I cry over it, wipe my eyes and think of a better way to go about it rather than mull over it.”

She however considers her greatest regrets as her inability to finish her degrees earlier. ”It hasn‘t been easy in old age,” she says. ”My mates are professors and it isn‘t as if I couldn‘t have done it, I simply wasted a lot of years. I graduated from the university in 1985 but I didn‘t become a registered engineer until the year 2000. What was I doing? There was simply no one to show me direction on what to do.”

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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