GWERU, ZIMBABWE- This week’s #WCW Process Engineer Audrey Mabiza is making her mark in the field of engineering in Zimbabwe.
Engineering is still a significantly male-dominated field. A 2013 research paper by scholar Musaida Manyuchi revealed that women make up 25% of engineers in Zimbabwe. However, the paper acknowledges that despite the male skew, there has been some increase in female enrollment in engineering degrees.
27-year-old Mabiza grew up in Gweru, a small city in central Zimbabwe. As the first-born child, she quickly developed a great sense of responsibility, having to be a good role model for her siblings.
“I have three siblings and I’m the oldest, I think the modern term for that is deputy parent,” she chuckles.
If Mabiza thought being “deputy parent” was challenging, engineering introduced her to a whole new world, one she was prepared for at least.
Mabiza’s father is an engineer and always postulated the field as gender fluid. Motivation from her father as well as learning the ropes of the science field in high school steered Mabiza towards an inevitable path.
“..I couldn’t imagine studying something else,” she says.
The next few years would come to constitute nothing short of a nomadic lifestyle for her. First, leaving her hometown of Gweru for the capital Harare where she enrolled into boarding at Arundel School, then jetting off to the United States to study Chemical Engineering at Michigan State University, an awakening experience for her.
“Studying abroad really opened up my mind and sparked my passion,” Mabiza says.
After a 4-year university stint in the US, Mabiza returned home in 2014 and worked as an engineering graduate trainee at a platinum mine in Shurugwi District for two years before becoming a permanent employee.
Her day starts with an early morning call time, waking up as early as 4 am to catch the bus to the mining plant were she immerses herself in the day’s tasks which typically include troubleshooting. In the evening she likes to spend quality time with her fiance and winds down through prayer and preparing her work meal for the next day.
The highlight of her job is that she gets to mentor student interns, something she is passionate about.
“I like to pass on the knowledge that I have. I strongly believe the key in changing Zimbabwe’s narrative and.. Africa’s narrative lies in the youth,” explains Mabiza.
However, waking up to the reality that she is still only one of two female engineers in her department, 3 years after she started working at the plant is disheartening.
“[The] Downs [are] realizing that women are indeed underrepresented in engineering and there are very few platforms that are empowering women to pursue careers in STEM. There are also a few platforms that are serving as a support system for the women currently in STEM, ” Mabiza explains.
An up and coming entrepreneur, Mabiza also runs a crocheting business called KAy Kreations with her friend Katherine Tambudze.
“I love DIY projects and I am always trying to make something artsy..We started it because we love to work with our hands,” she says.