Sophia Kutiti Olesambu, Geologist and General Manager, Drilling & Prospecting International Limited
With over 10+ years’ experience in the mining sector and a remarkable track record, Sophia Kutiti is the current General Manager at Drilling & Prospecting International Limited in Kenya, a company that offers Geo-technical site investigation, mineral exploration, overwater and environmental drilling. Her roles include, organizing and co-ordination of office operations, procedures and resources to facilitate organizational effectiveness and efficiency.
Sophia holds a Bachelor of Science (Geology) Degree from the University of Nairobi and is a certified member of the Geological Society of Kenya (GSK) and Association of Women in Energy and Extractives in Kenya (AWEIK). She is also the founder and lead mentor for Mincel Mentorship, a program aimed at empowering the youth and women to take up spaces in the mining sector in Kenya.
What are your personal career highlight(s)?
One highlight was working in Telecommunication as a Geotechnical investigator site manager in the remote areas of Turkana as a contractor for the telecommunication giant in Kenya, Safaricom Limited. I was responsible for the construction of GSM sites, expertise support, undertaking Geo-tech reports. I was the only woman present in the team, bringing communication connectivity closer to Semi- arid communities in Kenya.
The project was delivered on schedule and within the budget with comprehensive safety and environmental considerations in the general performances, which I am very proud of to date.
Secondly, I have had the privilege of mentoring young people especially young women in the mining sector in Kenya through career talks and a mentorship program.
How has being a woman affected your career in the Extractives industry? What are the opportunities and challenges?
Mining has long been regarded as a male-dominated industry, and being a woman in this sector does not exclude you from the extensive prejudice and discrimination. My father was a gemstone ASM miner and every time I wanted to join him in his operations, he always turned me down because of the general stereotype of being a female and having my feminist-oriented roles in the farm or in the kitchen but not to work in collaboration with him in the mines.
Now, as a woman Geologist, I really do not have a lot of issues compared to when I was starting. Back then, I was one of the few ladies working in the mines and that came with its fair share of resistance and challenges involving the general stereotyping but from the start, I stood firm in my career choice and curved out my niche.
The mining industry provides tremendous career opportunities for women and the focus by companies and individuals to attract and retain women in mining is having a positive impact as more women are taking up spaces in the mining sector across the globe.
There are many successful women being role models and mentors to others in this particular industry. I have witnessed many initiatives being implemented to make the mining environment and culture become a better place for women to work and this is a big step compared to what we had back then. The acceptance is slow but progressive.
How has your membership in AWEIK benefitted your work/career in the Extractives Industry?
As a woman in the Extractives sector in Kenya, AWEIK awakened me. I have been able to understand that I am not alone. With regards to my struggles and challenges as a woman geologist, AWEIK has brought me closer to other women with similar challenges and struggles.
I am part of an association that provides networking opportunities, offering partnerships for growth and opportunities; an association that celebrates women’s impact in the world.
Understanding that we all have a role to play in making the mining sector bearable and sustainable for women, AWEIK informs on the changes and advancements that are currently in the sector and what roles I as an individual and in a team can play to improve the situation.
Parting shot: What should stakeholders in the Extractives sector take focus on or implement to ensure sustainable participation and inclusion of women in the various value chains of the Extractives sector?
Stakeholders need to ensure that a diverse workforce is present. We need to be intentional. Identify the interest and build on it. More women are joining the Extractives industry and this is attributed to the fact that more companies are now deliberate about the inclusion of women in their spaces.
Let us conduct due diligence. This begins from home when young girls decide to pursue career in mining. Let us encourage and mentor these ideas and dreams. Having more women in the sector means having more role models and mentors; and this makes the industry more attractive to more progressive graduates, making certain that the industry continues to attract quality talent. The ripple effects of mentorship in Kenya are scattered but are being felt. We need to extrapolate on this through collective stakeholder partnerships.