Born in Kenya, Janet Mutuku, a Mastercard Scholar is a coop master’s student in Mathematical Sciences (Big Data option) at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Senegal (AIMS). After graduating from high school, she joined the University of Eldoret and earned a Bsc. in Actuarial Science. As the school president and the Christian Union Chairperson in her high school, she engaged the students in Christian activities, tree planting and formed a mathematics club. She served as the chairperson of University of Eldoret Actuarial Science Association for two years and as the Corporate Affairs Secretary of the Actuarial Students Society of Kenya (ASSK) for one year. She is currently the vice president of the AIMS 2018/2019 students’ delegates and oversees giveback activities to orphanages by teaching students mathematics and basic computer skills. As a member of Women Promoting Science in Young Generation Association at AIMS Senegal, she aspires to empower girls in joining STEM in Africa.
Why did you get into STEM?
I have had an ardent interest in mathematics and science since my formative stages of growth. As I was growing up, I did not have much interaction with many women in STEM from whom I could draw inspiration from because most people believed it was a male-dominated field. While at high school, I motivated myself to be an inspiring STEM lady to other ladies. In addition to this, I love science and artificial intelligence because of its practical implementation and value creation of scientific knowledge. Africa has many untapped resources and capabilities that need scientific innovation and knowledge to add value to them. I want to take part in the innovation that will, and has continued to, transform the level of communication, sports, entertainment and infrastructures in Africa.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I got an opportunity to undertake research in the field of Artificial intelligence in Canada. As I aspire to become a great data scientist and a CEO of a financial and investment consultancy firm, this opportunity equipped me with vast knowledge about how artificial intelligence tools can automatically detect financial market manipulation. I believe this will help African financial institutions become less vulnerable to attempts at financial manipulation, which in turn means greater stability in African financial markets overall – a factor that is critical for economic development.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
I was the first woman in my extended family to join university to undertake a STEM-related career, and many people could underestimate my capabilities as a woman. In case there was a problem, some men would challenge me to solve it without failure. I had to struggle many times beyond my abilities to meet and continue exceeding their expectations, and it was really challenging. With time, I appreciated what I could do better and concentrated on making it better every day. The extraordinary determination as a scientist to get to the bottom of practical and realistic problems despite the encountered failures has always been fulfilling especially when I solve the problems and finally make well-versed decisions. This has inspired me to continue working hard.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I believe that diversity of knowledge, skills, potential and capabilities exist in both men and women. As women, we can greatly perform as well as men in STEM. All we need is the right courage and determination to exploit our abilities in the best way we can.