Jane Wangari: Tough balancing act for woman engineer, leader

Jane Wangari is Bamburi Cement Country Health and Safety Manager and Geocycle Director

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Briefly describe to us your career journey

I joined Bamburi Cement as an intern in 2008 while I was still in the university where I was pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Technology at Egerton University. I went back after completing my studies and after six months I was promoted to a new role as Industrial Safety Coordinator at the Mombasa plant where I worked for one and a half years. In September 2010, I got a chance to advance my career at British American Tobacco (BAT) as an Environment, Health and Safety Executive, a position, which I held for four years. Fate would run its course and in 2014, I got an opportunity yet again to work at Bamburi Cement, but this time as the Country Health and Safety Manager. I worked in this position for four years before being promoted to Country Head of Environment, Health and Safety, adding environmental management to my responsibilities. In October last year, the company requested me to provide support in acting capacity as Geocycle Director, a challenge that I gladly took on. In April 1, 2022 I officially took up the role as Geocycle Director besides my other role.

What does your role at Bamburi Cement entail?

My role involves supporting six sites, three in Nairobi and three in Mombasa and over 1,500 contracted trucks. This, I do by managing and conducting risk assessments, putting proactive measures in place to prevent accidents, such as machine guarding, work at height protection measures, mobile equipment segregation with pedestrians, workforce engagement, among many other proactive interventions.

What are some of the challenges you faced as you grew into your career?

First, being a male dominated industry, women are sometimes looked down upon and not given equal opportunities compared to their male colleagues with similar expertise and knowledge. I have also had to let career progression opportunities pass me by so I could take care of my family. Balancing my role after having a new baby has also been challenging. You know how it gets with a new born. Long sleepless nights, then you are having this big meeting the following day where you are expected to be at your best regardless. The men miraculously sleep through it all. I wonder.

We are witnessing more women working within the construction sector, can you point out some of the misconceptions preventing women from joining the industry?

One misconception is that women can’t work on job sites. This is not true as there are variety of positions available for women, the number of women in managerial positions is also rising as well with many companies being more deliberate about diversity and inclusion. They also say women are paid lesser in construction industry. This is a fallacy. On the contrary, the pay gap is much less in construction sector compared to other sectors with women earning almost the same amount as their male counterparts.

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Your company is also investing in women, especially with the recent Women on the Wheels initiative. Tell us about it and what it hopes to achieve in the long run?

Bamburi as a company is big on empowering women and this was one of the programmes put in place to do just that. I am honoured to have been among the team that was behind its inception. The programme aims at bridging the employment gap of women in the transport and logistics industry, specifically trucking by training women on road safety. After undergoing the training, the women get employment with our logistics operations partners, such as Isuzu. In December last year, 17 women truck drivers graduated from the programme and were placed with our transporters and are now permanently employed. We recently launched a class of another group of women. Ideally, we are looking to have a minimum of 100 women trained and placed every year.

You are also the Geocycle Director, what does the role entail?

I oversee that the waste collected from various parts of the country are disposed of correctly in respect to regulatory standards and in alignment to our sustainability goals.

As part of our commitment to a zero-waste future, Bamburi Cement through our Geocycle Kenya wing, collects biomass, such as risk husks and other hazardous wastes, such as waste oil and waste tyres and coprocess them in our cement kilns. At our kilns, they are used as substitute fuels while simultaneously contributing to the circular economy agenda instead of being dumped at landfills.

Yearly, Bamburi Cement collects over 10,000 rice husks from Mwea and Ahero irrigation schemes. Since 2017, we have also been able to collect and safely dispose about 900,000 litres of waste oil in the cement kilns. Further ridding the environment of hazardous waste.


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How important is it for the country to take advantage of the rapidly growing construction?

Our urban population increased to 15 million in 2020 compared to 12 million in 2015. Necessitating increased demands for homes for the growing population and infrastructure development for a growing economy to ease movement of goods and services is vital. This has essentially led to upward growth in the construction industry. The construction industry needs to be receptive to employing women now more than ever lest we experience skills shortage in the industry similar to what has been plaguing the UK for a while now.

Jane Wangari (2nd left) discusses a point with MD Seddiq Hassani (right), Nairobi Grinding Plant Plant Manager Johnson Macharia (2nd right) and Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health at the Ministry of Health Dr Musa Nyandusi, during a visit by the Secretary to Bamburi's Nairobi Grinding Plant.