International Women in Engineering Day 2022: Malambo and Tebello’s Stories in Studying Industrial Design Engineering through IDE Program


Globally, only 16.5% of engineers are women. The 9th International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), organised by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), is an international day that aims to empower women in engineering around the world when they are still hugely under-represented in their professions.


The International Design Education (IDE) Program, jointed launched by UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries (UN Technology Bank), the World Eco-Design Conference (WEDC) and the Zhejiang University, Ningbo (ZJU, Ningbo), aims to enhance the industrial design capacity and competitiveness in the world’s 46 least developed countries (LDCs) by providing scholarships for students from these countries to study industrial design engineering at the post-graduate level.


We in the IDE Program firmly support female students from the least developed countries to advance their studies and career in industrial design engineering. To celebrate the International Women in Engineering Day 2022, we invited two female students, Malambo Lushomo from Zambia and Tebello Pusetso from Lesotho, who are in the first cohort of the IDE Program to share the stories of their engineering educational journey.


Why did you decide to study industrial design engineering with IDE Program? How has this study supported your career prospects? What has been the most rewarding and challenging experience so far?

Malambo: Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be some sort of designer or engineer. I can clearly remember in my early years, my career choices were fashion designer, interior designer and architect. I loved to create and learn and solve problems. Later, I studied computer science at university where I took a liking to web design and was first introduced to UI/UX design. Computer science was wonderful and whilst I would have been content with furthering my education in that field, the design element called back to me again. However, I was wondering which particular field of design to study - this was the point the IDE Program jumped into my lap. I had never heard of industrial design engineering until then but after doing my research on it, I was sure this will be the next chapter of my life.

The scariest part of taking this career up for me would have to be the fear. As I have no prior experience in industrial design engineering, and that is because we never really hear about these kinds of careers back home - it doesn't fall under our traditional careers and that means taking it up is risking unemployment or ineligibility to most job offers in Zambia. However, having had the chance to experience the program and learn about just how much of an impact it could make, I look forward to the changes I can help make with the knowledge I gain here.


Tebello: I was unfamiliar with industrial design engineering up until a friend showed me a post about the IDE scholarship. What surprised me about this course was it welcomes students from all backgrounds - through my research and later my participation in the course, I understand that industrial design engineering is a holistic discipline.

In the IDE Program, I learnt how to solve problems creatively with proper and appropriate designs. I realise that there are problems in all different disciplines, ranging from healthcare, food manufacturing, mechanics, photography, construction to hairdressing sectors. The IDE Program approaches problems from different fields holistically and helps students develop innovative and creative solutions. Moreover, considering that culture is dynamic and different trends arise from time to time, innovative designing skills will be essential in the future, and because of this, I am certain that I have chosen the right course that will support my career prospects.

The most challenging experience so far is studying this practical course online due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the remote studying arrangement also allowed me to undertake an internship as a designer at a technology company where I can put my knowledge into practice in all aspects of design.


Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female engineers/female engineering students? Have you ever encountered any gender stereotypes as a female studying engineering? Are females in the engineering field common in your country/culture?

Malambo: I feel we live in a world that still has traditional views on gender roles in terms of what a female is capable of doing and not doing. I hear comments all the time that this job is "too dangerous" or "too hard" for females. Moreover, I think the saddest part was that, these comments came from my fellow females, such as "engineering is hard, I don't think I could handle it" and "you must be really smart - I bet they are more boys in your class though". Despite this experience, I am glad to see just how many women conquer the unwanted opinions and thrive in their engineering fields.


Tebello: I think the gender stereotype in engineering starts way back in the education system, when math and science are viewed as subjects for males and males are perceived as the smarter ones than females. This affects the career choices of females, as they grow with this mindset and go for careers in non-math and science-related subjects. Furthermore, the public perception of engineering is influenced by cultural beliefs that engineering is a masculine field and that females belong to other subjects such as arts. I personally think gender stereotypes in any field, including engineering, amplify harassment and discrimination. I think it is important for women to break this gender-based stereotyping, shift this mindset and take up engineering if they want to be an engineer and study engineering.

I have seen people get astonished at the idea of me studying engineering. I wonder if the astonishment is attached to the stereotypical mindset people have about females in engineering or if it’s because of the change in my career path. In my country, Lesotho, just like many other countries, engineering is viewed to be a field for men, it is very uncommon to find females taking part in this field. I remember this one time, I wanted to know where I can get an Arduino UNO kit (a starter kit for electronics) at a fair price and asked one male friend who did engineering. Instead of giving me an answer, he asked why do I need an Arduino UNO kit. I had to explain that I am studying engineering and he was quite amazed that I am interested in engineering. I can also recall when I was doing my undergraduate at the National University of Lesotho, you would find only one or two females in the whole engineering class and people normally would wonder why these females decided on studying engineering.


In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up engineering?

Malambo: Just like all the subjects such as business, accounting, medicine and law, engineering is a discipline that needs holistic perspectives and insights, including from different genders.


What advice do you have to encourage your fellow female students who may be considering studying an engineering subject?

Malambo: My advice to all women in the engineering field or someone considering this path is to go ahead and do it. At the end of the day, our passion for what we do is the only drive we need.


Tebello: Curiosity is extremely important when starting off in the field of engineering. The advice I will give to my fellow female students who may consider studying any engineering subject is to develop curiosity and love for learning – it will allow you to create new solutions and solve problems. Engineers must have passion for creating something new and different. Break the stereotypes in engineering and keep in mind that intimidation is a mental barrier - to overcome that, surround yourself with supportive people.



The UN Technology Bank, WEDC, and ZJU, Ningbo will continue to deepen the partnerships with international stakeholders to offer opportunities to more students from LDCs, including a focus on female students. The next year’s scholarship application period for the International Design Education Program is scheduled for early February 2023.