When Grace Mutembo was named Anakazi Women of the Year in Construction she was encountering career challenges that made her question if she wanted to continue a career in engineering. However, the award gave her a new resolve to finish the exceptional work she had started.
“My winning the Women of the Year in construction award was unexpected but it did come at a crucial time because I was facing some problems that made me consider a career outside engineering,” she said.
Mrs Mutembo is a civil engineer with a degree from the University of Zambia and a Master’s degree in engineering specialising in transportation engineering from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
She is a senior manager in design at the Road Development Agency, an organisation she has been with for the last 13 years. She co-ordinates the review of all the road engineering designs for the road network managed by the agency, and dealing with issues related to road construction.
Mrs Mutembo also established the first research and development unit in the road sector in Zambia in 2013.
Despite all her achievements, Mrs Mutembo felt she needed to walk away from a job and career she not only loved but thrived in.
“I love my job; every project is interesting and takes me around the country. However, in spite of how good I am at my job I face the challenge of not been taken seriously by some of our key stakeholders because they don’t expect a woman to know anything about engineering. I sometimes have to ask my male colleagues to speak to them, only then do they listen.”
Winning Stanbic Bank’s Anakazi Women of the Year Award in construction gave her a new resolve to continue the important work she had started, and now she has no desire to give up engineering.
“My goal right now is to see a properly designed road constructed with all the required facilities notwithstanding the budgetary constraints roads constructors experience,” she said.
Mrs Mutembo also hopes to someday open an engineering consultation firm.
Such ventures are encouraged and supported by Stanbic’s Anakazi Banking initiative that empowers female entrepreneurs by giving them access to finance and equipping them with tools to run successful businesses through masterclasses and networking opportunities.
Her career plays an important role in her life, but what is more important to Mrs Mutembo is raising her family and playing a key role in her child’s life.
“I’m a mother to a wonderful boy called Chabota. Although my career is demanding I always find time to spend with my son and make sure he is never starved of my attention.”
While Mrs Mutembo still faces the challenge of sometimes being judged by her gender and not her good work, she would still like to see more female engineers.
“My message for the women that want to pursue engineering or any career path is: stay focused. You will face hurdles; some might seem impossible. Believe in yourself regardless of the environment around you. Set goals and stick to them”