Engnr. Cecilia Gbei Davis’ Bio
Engineer. Cecilia Gbei Davis, a single and comfortable mother of two children. Her daughter is 22 years old and is pursuing her Bsc in Information Technology. She aspires to be a Software Engineer. Her son is 11 years old.
Cecilia considers herself a multi-STEMate because of her variety of STEM careers namely:
- Building Construction Technologist – BSc
- Expertise in Rough Diamond Gemology (first woman in her country, Debeers Trained)
- Asc in Architectural Engineering and,
- several post-graduate certifications in Monitoring & Evaluation, Project Planning and Management and Land Cadastral & Cartography.
She has over 15 years of professional engineering experience. Cecilia is also the vision bearer and founding member of the Society to Women Engineers of Liberia (SWEL) where she served as Secretary-General from October 2012 – December 2018. She is currently volunteering (elected) Assistant Secretary-General at the Engineering Society of Liberia (ESOL).
Why did I get into STEM?
I was driven and still is by my passion and curiosity to look beyond everything. This began when I was just six years old. According to my father who has been a Railway Mechanician for over 30 years, I often asked about how structures got to be constructed. He also said I was passionate about living things so much that I got into the habit of constantly drawing plants and animals I saw around the house. I even won an award for drawing a bunch of plantains when I was in grade two (2nd grade).
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
Wow!, It began when I was able to complete my Architectural Drafting Proficiency Certificate course as the first female in exile (spent 9 years in the Republic of Guinea during the Liberian civil war) whilst pregnant with my first child (Alecia Kesewaa Adjei)
I consider this my forever greatest: The fact that I became a VIP in STEM Mentorship, the dreams of so many young ladies were turned into reality when my vision and idea was welcomed by outstanding co-founders at the Society of Women Engineers of Liberia (SWEL), which we continued over these and many more years to come. Encouraging women to venture into STEM fields and Mentorship has never been more rewarding in my life.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM?
My challenge began the day I entered the Architectural Drafting class. The guys asked, ” What are you doing here? Please go to the other side of the campus. That’s where your fellow females are studying tailoring, secretarial science… etc.” I laughed and told them I hadn’t missed my direction at all. The trainer came in and confirmed it. They decided to test me by avoiding me. I sat alone and studied alone. Even when the trainer requested we form teams, I was on my own. I took up the challenge and proved them wrong when I began topping most of the class evaluations. They named me “Iron Lady” and we have remained good professional friends.
The next experience happened when I returned home from exile and started a voluntary work as a land cadastral draftsman – a title I compelled them to change to “draft’s lady” before I received my employment letter after two years of delay. Whilst there, I noticed my compensation was lower than most of the workers including those who came after me just because I was the only lady then. I worked in that department for nine (9) years and within those years, I did part-time studies in Architecture Engineering at a local Catholic Polytechnic where I obtained my Associate Degree. Many thanks to the then US Ambassador Bismarck Marrick for funding my co-founders at SWEL scholarship opportunity.
My final challenge, which I considered the last straw in my cap, got me to this point of being my #OwnBoss. It had been going on for 12 years. I observed that at the Government Diamond office (my last workplace in our Civil Service) whenever I was given the mantle of authority to oversee the activities in the absence of our bosses, most of my colleagues misbehaved. But, as I’ve always known how to make people come around, I performed my magic – making sure everyone felt important and appreciated with respect for hierarchy – and things went well.
Now!, my final straw dropped when the adjustment of salaries took effect. It affected me so negatively that I had to resign after I discovered that I was the lowest-paid staff, even beneath my subjects, for a job I fervently committed myself to. I tried to address the issue through the requisite authorities, but to no avail. So, being who I am, I drew up my savings and continued works on my longtime dream right away!. I invested in small businesses and formed a partnership with two other engineers in STEM Consultants & Services Providers Incorporations. I love my new found space.
I am working with an educational charity – GetThemTrade Initiatives – which I intend to invest much of my shares into from STEM Cons Inc to assist housewives, youth and the physically challenged to obtain skills for self-sufficiency. I want them to know that innovation and entrepreneurship will yield self-reliance.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I want them to know that women are smarter than most men and men fear that. For this reason, they tend to make us feel worthless. They do this through negative traditional, religious and social values. I often tell my mentees: we women are good at multitasking which is a special gift from God to us. This also means that we have powerful brains. Don’t let it go to waste, you just need to be yourself in a more decent and smart way.