Ing. Sefakor Dzovor striving to become nation’s first woman nuclear engineer

Ing. Sefakor Dzovor in the office

As a child, she was curious about engineering and that led her to want to take up a course in the sciences to add some real meaning to her engineering instincts. But when she entered the KNUST mechanical engineering department and realized that there were only two females including herself in the midst of 110 males, her curiosity transformed into challenge.

She had to challenge herself and work hard to prove to her lecturers and colleagues that a woman is capable of attaining high laurels in engineering, and her success would be a statement to many women who have the urge to take on the sciences which over the years has been dominated by males.

That was the beginning of how Ing. Yvonne Sefakor Dzovor stamped her name in the nation’s engineering history, a route she used to become one of the young leading figures in the nation’s nuclear journey even before she hits 30 years.

Currently pursuing her masters in nuclear engineering and management at Tsinghua University, Miss Dzovor is excited and preparing to be one of the nation’s top nuclear safety officers.

Why Nuclear

After school, Yvonne had the opportunity to be at Mantrac Ghana, she was with the sale department, selling Caterpillar products and later moved to the mechanical department to help fix Mining dump truck engines.

From there she got the opportunity in 2016 to work at the Power Authority where she was an Assistant Engineer at the Power Operations Department. Her responsibility was to assist in the maintenance of mechanical equipment at the Bui Power Station.

Two year after that she was seconded to the nuclear department of the Nuclear Power Ghana where she has been working till date.

Speaking in an interview with the B&FT, Miss Dzovor said one of the reasons she decided to join the nation’s team working hard for the realisation of the nuclear agenda is that she wants to be part of history.

“I have been in the energy space for more than half a decade and realised that many of our current energy sources are diminishing day by day; Akosombo is losing its control on our energy needs because it has served us well and because of climate change and other factors, the water sources and levels keep declining.

We can also not rely on renewables because they can’t assure us of reliability. When you look at the data, we need a new and strong energy source that would back our economic development and from all scenarios, nuclear stands tall. The nation is yet to make a firm decision on some important things when it comes to nuclear and as a young woman, I realised that this is a dream I want to see realised.

I want to be one of the firsts to be recognised in the nation’s nuclear agenda. That is one of the reasons why I decided to join Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) and contribute my quota to ensure that the nuclear dream comes true” Miss Dzovor said.

She said her decision to pursue nuclear did not go done well with some people who have ascribed all sort of myths to the profession.

“I was even told that because of radiation as a young lady nuclear is not your thing and it may affect fertility, also when you are always in the bush you may not get a man to marry, the nuclear field is for the physically strong and not for a woman, all these and more were said to discourage me from the course but I read about these and realised that they were myths.

As a lady there are a lot of hindrances when you decide to pursue a male-dominated venture but when you set your mind to it you have to read, satisfy yourself and make the move.”

STEM Education

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is always a very interesting journey for women because is dominated by men, she said. Adding that school, especially at the engineering department of the KNUST was fun and challenging because she met a new crop of people with different orientation.

“As a lady, when you decide to go on this path you should be ready to be strong and be counted. From school being in the midst of 100 men, the likelihood of you being overlooked is high. So, you have to work hard and make a case on every occasion and that is what I did at the KNUST. It prepared me for work.

The males in my class did not want to give me preferential treatment and that help me during my working life. You should not expect pampering because you are a woman. If that happens, you are defeating the purpose.

So, I learnt how to be tough in school, though not in the masculine way though, it has helped me to be outstanding and contribute my quota to every work I am assigned to.”

Love advances

She said because of the male dominance in STEM education, love advances are very common when a female venture, but it is also a great opportunity to understand and relate with males at any level.

She said one has to be firm and strict and draw clear boundaries. This she believes will help to get the respect of colleague males: “You cannot run away from these advances but you have to be very clear in your communication and do it with a lot of emotional intelligence. When you do that they respect you and stay in their lane.”

Culture relook        

She added that one of the ways to help women strive high in the sciences is to have some re-orientation: “Many men remind you that you are a woman so don’t do this or that. I tell them, why do you want to waste the potential of a person because it resides in a female body. Let’s support ourselves to get the better of everyone to develop the nation.”

She said from her experience globally, the woman stereotype is not only reserved to Africa but many other continents and a global campaign is needed to address it.

Female influence

She indicated that feminism is one of the traits that help females to succeed in STEM. According to her, the tiny details involved in executing a task is one that is never lost on females therefore they are able to better execute tasks without a blemish on many occasions.

She added that with the hectic nature of jobs that deal with STEM, there is the need for managers who easily connect emotionally to be able to keep tabs on every member of the team.

“Females aside from work are able to call you and check up on how you are doing an activity that brings a lot of comfort to staff. Using Nuclear as an example, the job is very hectic and as an operator, it is more hectic so you would need people around you who call or talk to you about things that are not work-related at leisure time. These are some good traits women bring on-board.”

Male support

She intimated that the journey to get more females into the sciences is and must be a collective effort, as a result, males must be sensitised to see the need and importance to support the drive to get more females into the STEM programs.

“We need not be antagonistic but we need to court the men to encourage females to join STEM programs. If we get their encouragement it’s easy not only in the classroom but also at workplaces.”

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