Barriers for DI are lowered as women excel in technical and management roles

ABB’s global D&I Strategy 2030 aims to double the percentage of women managers across its offices over the next ten years from 12.5% to 25% • D&I Strategy 2030 targets also include 50% female university hires • ABB continues to purposefully cultivate female leadership capacity.

ABB has made great strides in the diversity and inclusion space in general, and in gender equality as it pertains to women in particular. It has set and worked towards clear targets to have higher gender representation from entry level right up to global senior management. ABB’s global Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Strategy 2030 aims to double the percentage of women managers across its offices over the next ten years from 12.5% to 25% (and 19% by 2025), in addition to 50% female university hires.

A professional highlight for Edith Kikonyogo, ABB’s Local Division Manager for Energy Industries in Southern Africa, has been leading the team that established the operation and maintenance philosophies on four of the first local solar PV plants. “This was a challenge as there was not a lot of expertise to draw on in South Africa at the time, but the team pulled it off and operated the plants successfully, as well as delivering on both guaranteed plant performance and the safety aspects of the operations.” Edith showcases this achievement in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March. The IWD 2022 campaign theme is #BreakTheBias: Imagine a gender equal world.

“Each year I have witnessed gains being made in this regard. ABB continues to purposefully cultivate female leadership capacity and has kept providing programmes and tools to empower women and to give them more agency over the trajectory of their careers,” says Edith. She is responsible for growing the business in the power, water, and oil and gas sectors in the region. She is accountable for all matters relating to the division’s market strategy, operations, organisational capacity and, most importantly, the growth and wellbeing of all staff. Edith has over 13 years’ managerial experience and a total of 17 years’ experience in the industrial automation and power industry.

She has been with ABB for 18 years, during which time she has held various technical and managerial roles, including Africa Hub Service Manager – Power Generation. Her professional experience spans project engineering, project management, energy management consulting, sales and sales management, profit and loss responsibility and, most recently, board and fiduciary responsibilities. Edith has both a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand and is registered as a Professional Engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa.

“Overall, my biggest accomplishment is the wellness and wholeness of my family,” adds Edith. In terms of changes needed at a company and societal level to increase the visibility and importance of women, Edith would like to see barriers to entry and growth in the workplace removed for women. Deliberate effort needs to be made to identify the issues that stand in the way of women advancing in their careers.

Resources then need to be assigned to lower or remove these barriers, so that women can have as fair a chance at advancement as any other person. Whether these barriers relate to childcare, which disproportionately falls upon women, or rigidity around working hours, or optionality around work assignments for women who are mothers to young children, creative solutions need to be sought to retain and allow women to advance in the workplace.

Edith’s advice to young women just starting out on their career path, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries, is that few things trump hard work. “I have not yet encountered a form of prejudice that does not eventually bow to excellence, so be assured that work hard will pay off. Also, show up as yourself, rather than some version that you might imagine would be better suited to the workplace. The earlier you embrace the feminine aspects of your character as strengths rather than as weaknesses, the quicker you will come into yourself and fulfil your potential,” she says.

“There is visible progress in the right direction,” says Tryphinah Nkomo, Sales and Marketing Manager for Process Automation, Energy Industry, Sub Saharan Africa. She is responsible for business development and sales covering the Power, Water, Oil, Gas and Chemicals segments. Tryphinah adds she is proud of the young people that she has taken under her wing as a mentor, who are currently blooming in their own space.

“I find joy in helping others unleash their potential and grow. I have assumed different roles within the technical environment throughout my career, which is known to be male dominated. I made sure that in every single opportunity I was awarded that I gave my best,” says Tryphinah. A career highlight was running a critical project for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup. “This was a huge challenge. However, I overcame that challenge and delivered the project on time and within budget. This was a great achievement for me as I felt like I had contributed positively to the history of the country.”

Tryphinah concludes: “Women should be given equal opportunities without any prejudice. Over the years women have continuously proven that they are as capable as their male counterparts.” Her advice to young women just starting out on their career path, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries, is to work hard and claim their positions. “We do not get ahead because people do us favours; we need to put in the effort and prove our worth.”

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