Break the Bias

This years International Women’s Day is all about Breaking the Bias – imagining a world free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. One element of breaking the bias is centered on the world of work. The creation of inclusive work cultures, where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated, is critical to achieve gender equality.

In celebration of International Women’s Day we have spoken to some of our female team members to find out how their careers in data and research, a sector historically dominated by men, have developed and what challenges, if any, they have faced.

Bhoke Munanka

Bhoke Munanka

Project Coordinator, Tanzania

Geneveva Ruhikula

Geneveva Ruhikula

Data Processing Officer, Tanzania

Racheal Cheptegei

Racheal Cheptegei

Data Processing Officer, Uganda

1. When did you first have an interest in data and research, and why?

Bhoke: Just after finishing university in 2007, I was looking for a job when I had a call from my supervisor checking on my availability to work on a project for four weeks as a research assistant. While I worked on that project, I had the opportunity to reach places I had never been to and I also found myself aware of things I was not familiar with. It also increased my awareness in understanding the challenges different people face, which in turn triggered my strong interest in research and data.

Geneveva: I first had an interest in data and research when I was still at university because I used to be so inquisitive about how culture shapes the living behavior of a certain community both socially and economically around the world. So, I initially grew up wishing to be a Cultural Anthropologist.

Racheal: My first interest in the research and data collection sector was at my previous job for a renewable energy company as a Customer Insights Lead. I was assigned to lead a research project on ensuring accessibility to reliable solar energy solutions at affordable prices within East Africa. During this assignment I was able to interact with diversified individuals, identify the market niche through understanding their behavior and the need of the people in the community. I was drawn to the research and data collection sector because I believe it is a field that will empower me to learn something new, hone my problem-solving skills, and challenge myself in different ways while making a difference to people’s lives.

2. How did you begin your journey into your current career?

Bhoke: After finishing University while still in the college setting, I was doing clearance so I could get my provisional results and start looking for a job. When I was passing by the college of engineering, I found many scholars standing outside one of the buildings debating, and it happens that I knew some of them, so I asked them what was happening and they told me “Don’t you know! there is a BRT (Bus Rapid Transfer) project taking over soon” and explained they are now looking for people to collect and enter the data. The information intrigued me so I decided to join the project. Since I love exploring new things I applied for the Data Collector post and I was appointed to collect data in various parts of Dar es Salaam. The project allowed me to reach places I had never been to before. A few days after the work was over, my supervisor called me and told me there was a researcher looking for an assistant researcher so they could help him collect data on insect biodiversity in the eastern arc mountains, so he asked me if I was ready to take part. I said yes and so my data-related journey started from there and I found myself very passionate about this activity as it brought me together with different people in different places, and in particular gave me insight into different people’s social norms.

Geneveva: I worked as a Field Officer under the Jali Watoto Project looking at how children from poor families could get help on various social and economical issues. In 2011 I joined EDI Global as an Interviewer whereby I worked in collecting data in the field for a Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) project. Later, I was promoted to a Data Processing Office which I have been doing for almost 10 years now.

Racheal: I began my journey while pursuing a degree in Economics and Applied Statistics and wanting to learn more I was able to move into, and work towards achieving my dream of participating in the research sector. It was an opportunity to know more, internalise and apply the key insights which have helped transformed me and my surrounding environment. My current career as a Data Processing Officer has helped me to interact with many amazing and supportive people. I have learned a lot in the space of three months in terms of coding and configurations of the tools, training, and ensuring high-quality data delivery by the field research team.

3. When you started working or studying did you face any challenges because of your gender? 

Bhoke: When I started working at EDI Global, I started out as a Supervisor leading the field team. In fact, leading them wasn’t easy,; especially the male enumerators some of whom were a bit older than me and they believed in age over capability. Generally, there is a perception of women as weak creatures even if she has ability, however, this is now changing since women are now holding more leadership positions.

Geneveva: Funnily enough I was the first female at EDI Global to join the data processing team. I was, and still have been, treated with respect, and so I am very proud of my bosses; especially the late Mr. Thadeus (“TG”) Rweyemamu. So, no, I have never faced any challenge because of my gender. All challenges that I have faced were general and common to all genders.

Racheal: Yes, I have experienced gender bias in the past. Men are usually given an unfair advantage compared to female employees no matter what qualifications they may have leading to female job dissatisfaction and stress within the workplace. I have however worked with lots of amazing and supportive woman in research who believed in my ability, competence, and mentored me to be a better person by turning every challenge into an opportunity. Since joining EDI Global, where there are many incredible individuals who find pleasure in ensuring growth and development amongst fellow employees, my perception of gender differences at work has greatly changed, and I believe that we can all work together despite the gender difference.

4. What advice would you give to young women in your home country who want a career in data and research?

Bhoke: There are still many opportunities that need to be filled in data and research, so I would encourage them to work in this industry as life within data and research is particularly interesting. You learn new things from time to time but also expand your network as you meet different people with different experiences. Also, in this industry they will be able to find new opportunities and even develop their own career.

Geneveva: It is an awesome career for them to take because it is contributing to the generation of a reliable source of information necessary for understanding their life challenges and making informed decisions on social, economic, and political aspects of life.

Racheal: To every woman out there, I encourage them to believe in themselves, activate the inner strength that can be tapped into, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams in the research and data sector. Having more women join the workforce, especially in leadership, will positively encourage many girls to pursue studying and attain innovative and regenerative skills and knowledge, to compete equally in the work market while achieving their purpose in life.

More information on International Women’s Day and this years’ theme can be found here.