As part of International Women’s Day 2022, we are sharing stories of how our colleagues and students have been able to help break gender bias. In this blog, Charity Zawadi Mwambeyu, an undergraduate Civil Engineering student, explains how she is helping to break the gender bias in economics.
By Charity Zawadi Mwambeyu
1. How do you believe you have helped to break bias either during your education or extra-curricular employment? Please provide as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing.
Last academic year, I was able to contribute to a restructuring of one of my units to include a segment about racism. After questioning the background and perspective of the teaching material in synchronous lectures, I was invited to help devise questions for an interview with the Mayor of Bristol around architecture and racism following the inaugural Race and Housing conference. The impact of this formative experience was twofold. Firstly, I realised the outcomes of challenging myself and others beyond our comfort zone far surpassed my previous horizons. I was later invited to participate in the interview which inspired in me the confidence to be more assertive. Second, this interview was recorded and will form part of the unit for upcoming years. I believe by challenging the western perspective of our approach to teaching design and architecture, I was able to break the bias- creating space at the table for a diversity of viewpoints. I hope that students taking this unit in future are more comfortable leaning into their differences to generate divergent design solutions.
2. What do you hope for the future?
In a mentoring session with Sandi Rhys-Jones OBE FCIOB FWES, I learnt to “never say ‘only’ or ‘just’.” This small lesson, applied reasonably, has changed my approach to communication. Thus, I hope for a future where women feel empowered to speak their mind in collaborate environments, assured that their opinion will be accorded equal merit among their peers, rather than hedging themselves in anticipation of having to assert themselves and defend their contribution. I hope that institutions recognise the existence of this gap in recognition and make efforts to support women on their journeys to counter these limiting beliefs so they can rise to their full potential.
3. What do you pledge for the future – how will you help us to forge women’s equality?
While most of the people I look up to ahead of me are women, a remarkably small proportion of my peers who inspire and mentor me are actually women. It does not escape me that before the women in STEM, there must first be girls in STEM. Representation matters. I pledge to do my best to pay it forward by openly representing the possibilities for women in all the spaces I occupy- whether it be a girl in academia, a girl in STEM or a girl in engineering.
Find out more about our International Women’s Day 2022 celebrations on our website.
In celebration of our ongoing commitment to breaking gender bias, we invite you to watch our Spotlight: IWD series. Hear from champions across our University community, past and present, who are committed to breaking gender bias.