Engr. Felicia Agubata, PhD, FNSE, ACIArb; is the Assistant General Manager, Terrestrial Services at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) responsible for managing the Nigerian Airspace through the provision, installation, and maintenance of navigational aids, communication equipment, and surveillance systems.

With over 18 years of experience in aviation, project management, and communication engineering, Felicia Agubata is a Council member of the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigerian (COREN); member Technical Board of Directors of Prototype Engineering Development Institute(PEDI), Ilesha , Osun State and a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE). She is a past Director of IFATSEA (International Federation of Air Traffic Electronics Association) African Region; member, Board of Trustees, Women in Aviation Nigerian Chapter and an Associate member of UK-Based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators( ACIArb).

A recipient of 2010 Women in Aviation Scholarship as well as 2007 Association of Women in Aviation Maintenance  (AWAM) scholarship; she  is the 15th President of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) (2018 to 2019).

Did your childhood experiences influence your choice of becoming an Engineer?

My early life was nothing near a bed of roses. I was a regular girl in a regular rural environment in the eastern part of Nigeria.

I knew hardship and deprivation, but it did not matter much because most people around me were in either a similar or slightly better situation. I was good at sports and academics .I was a helpmate and eventually a partner to my mother in her business. I was therefore well regarded and admired by school mates, playmates and parents alike for sporting and academic excellence as well as for being a useful hand to my mother.

What were the options you had while considering career?

Whilst in higher school, I could literally study any science course because of my flair for, and proficiency in, Mathematics.

From an early age, I had an aptitude for practical works or application of principles to problem solving and this is key in Engineering. Specifically, I like repeatable solutions based on proper analytics or computations.

It was therefore natural or logical for me to settle for a career in Engineering. It could have been Civil, Mechanical, Aeronautic, Chemical, Agricultural, just name it. I settled for Computer Science and Engineering at 1st degree and subsequently, Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Masters Level and PhD. I am glad that I did . Given another chance, I will go the same route again.

Engineering is thought to be masculine in nature, yet you opted for it?

Engineering has nothing to do with gender. There are indeed no subjects for males or females; no exclusive questions in examinations for females and males; no practical for males as distinct from females’.

The threshold for passing is not gender-based or biased. This is also true for male and female doctors or male and female pilots. I am enjoying my career as an Engineer and I want to see a lot more brilliant women on board.

Give us an overview of APWEN and her activities especially as they relate to women and girls’ empowerment

APWEN is an acronym for the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria: a platform or an umbrella body for qualified female Engineers or student Engineers. Our mission is to continuously increase the awareness that Engineering is a career for girls also, thereby improving the numerical strength of female engineers.

At APWEN, we promote the interest of the girl-child. We advocate for the girl-child to study STEM subjects and ultimately to settle for a career in Engineering. Post-graduation, we encourage them to practice Engineering. At APWEN, we are very practical and pan Nigeria in outlook. Our activities and membership cut across all geo-political zones.

We are indeed investing energy in creating and improving the pool of technical talents that will drive the Nigerian economy today and in the future.

We are empowering the girl-child and closing the gender gap in Engineering and indeed the STEM profession.

STEM education has been identified as an instrument to encourage the girl child, especially in choosing Engineering as a career. How far has this instrument gone in achieving its purpose?

STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is an imperative for any modern economy or an aspiring economy. Nigeria is in the league of ambitious economies. Consequently, we cannot afford to de-emphasize STEM.

Indeed, STEM is a key enabler. It is a key instrument that will leverage us to strive for parity with developed nations. STEM is an economic driver.

If we neglect it, the world will leave us behind.

Do you have any success stories?

The challenges are both attitudinal, cultural and perhaps lack of awareness. Advocacy, partnerships and provision of support via scholarships, training and learning aids are some of the multi-pronged approach taken thus far by APWEN to deal with the situation. Feedback has been most encouraging.

SheEngineer, invent it ,build it is a programme sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK under the GCRF African Catalyst phase 3 in partnership with University of West of Scotland(UWS); in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering Technology,  UK (IET).

It is a programme aimed at building the capacity of female engineers, STEM teachers as well as secondary school students in STEM subjects.

Under the programme, as the grant awardee, we were able to build the capacity of 200 STEM teachers across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria to enable them use enhanced teaching methodologies to deliver lectures to students for better impact and results. APWEN members were also trained on the Train the Trainer scheme to be able to train STEM teachers in their chapters. Under this programme, we were able to develop a Diversity and Inclusion policy for APWEN and this was submitted to COREN to mandate the professional Engineering Institutions ( PEI) to ensure diversity in their leaderships, appointments and employment. This has been fully implemented as NSE has produced the first female deputy president in its 63years of existence. Recently, the President/Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammed Buhari appointed 11 women into the technical board of NASENI institute and many more. We also have produced more women in leadership positions in NSE branches, Board of Fellows, Divisions etc.

During my tenure as APWEN President, we were pro- action; we were literally fearless.

Specific milestones include launching in seven states and awarding scholarships to 81pupils selected across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, sponsored by NNPC; construction of seven ultra-modern science and technology laboratories with motorized borehole in six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. (Two completed while five are under construction). All sponsored by NNPC.

Do you see more women taking charge in the Engineering sector and what are the grey areas you think can be addressed to re-position women in the revamp of the country’s economy for growth and development?

Definitely, women are on the rise in the profession. This is attested to by the number of professional women Engineers occupying more strategic positions and delivering stunning results. Take a look at these women Engr. Aramide Adeyoye ( SA works & Infrastructure Lagos State ) doing wonders in the state in the area of infrastructural development), Engr. Dr. Unoma Nwafulugo( Rector, Federal Polytechnic Oko), Engr. Elohor( MD Snepco), Engr. Rose Madaki( Standard Organization of Nigeria), Engr. Kori Shettima( the face of reconstruction in Borno state), Engr. Nnoli Akpedeye ( MD,Contego Servo Ltd & Chairman Compos Mentis Foundation) ; Engr. Dr. Ibibiola Amao( MD, Lonadek), Engr. Dr. Patricia Opene -Odili( Exxon Mobil) ,Engr. Dr. Ini Usoro(Director, FERMA),Engr. Valerie Agberegba(NPHDC), Engr. Oduwa Agboneni (MD. Nenis Engineering), Engr. Margret Oguntala (MD, BAMSAT Engineering/First female deputy president of NSE); and many more.

 Our hope is that more engineers will stay in the profession to enable the nation to harness their talents and experience.

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