admin | December 6, 2021
Based in the Greater Accra region of Ghana, Grace Tetteyfio is a young woman who found success in a career popularly believed to be reserved for men only: engineering. Ms. Tetteyfio says there is a mistaken perception in Ghanaian society that only poor students pursue Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). She adds that some young women might see the electrical engineering course as too difficult or too dangerous, or that women lack self-belief and confidence. Yet Ms. Tetteyfio encourages young women interested in pursuing TVET careers not to fear, but to study hard to pass their exams. She says: “As a woman, you yourself can be a barrier if you look down on yourself and feel like the male-dominated TVET jobs are for guys. You are the first barrier, then family, friends, and society. Once you break the first barrier and believe in yourself, all the others are nothing.”
This story is part of a series called Stars in the Field, produced as part of the Young Women in TVET project. Through this series, we will profile women working in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Ghana. While not a typical “Farmer story,” we think these profiles can inspire your listeners and start a conversation about traditional and non-traditional jobs for men and women in your community.
Based in the Greater Accra region of Ghana, Grace Tetteh-Fio is a young woman who found success in a career popularly believed to be reserved for men only: engineering.
Ms. Tetteh-fio is 22 years old and attended Ada Technical Training Institute in the eastern part of Greater Accra. In junior high school, she was the only girl in her class who studied pre-technical.
She recalls: ‘’At school, I wanted to do something different from what my friends were doing. So I went in for technical education with my dad’s support. I love to be exceptional, that is naturally me. I do not like following the crowd.”
Ms. Tetteh-Fio says there is a perception in Ghanaian society that only poor students pursue technical education. She tells a story to illustrate her point. During her second year at training school, she visited a shop to buy water. When the elderly owner heard her impeccable English, he asked which school she attended. When she told him, the owner was amazed because, he said, technical students do not speak English so proficiently.
She says: ‘’There are about 10% or fewer females in male-dominated TVET sectors. In my time at the technical school, I was the only female in the batch who was studying engineering … I think [the girls] were scared of engineering and perceived it as a difficult course.” She adds that most young women go into the hospitality industry, catering, fashion design, or dressmaking because they can easily get established and start earning income after school.
Ms. Tetteh-Fio also analysed the job market before deciding on her career. She explains: “Some women are hardworking and strive to make money, so for such women and young females they should do the right analysis when choosing TVET vocations. Analysis like: when I braid hair, I get 10 cedi. And if you wire a room, you get 100 cedis—and then you make a decision.’’
After graduating from school, Mr. Tetteh-Fio landed an internship at a construction site in Accra. After an initial inquiry at the site, she returned the following day, well-dressed and with her technical gear. She instantly won the hearts of the workers.
She says that some young women might see the electrical engineering course as too difficult and be afraid they will fail the exams. Some might be afraid of receiving an electric shock or being otherwise harmed by electricity, or, as the job includes climbing electrical poles, may have a fear of heights. They may also lack self-belief and confidence.
But, she says, choosing non-traditional TVET training and vocations has its advantages. “Employment is relatively assured alongside the opportunities for self-employment. Also, you feel good because people admire and appreciate you.”
But pursuing her career has not come without challenges. Once, a woman friend asked her to fix an air conditioner. But the women’s brothers had no confidence that a woman could do the work. When Ms. Tetteh-Fio arrived at the house and saw that they had called a male refrigerator mechanic, the two of them worked together. She did not charge her friend for her services but felt bad that the men did not have confidence in her.
Ms. Tetteh-Fio has a recommendation for young women interested in pursuing TVET careers. She encourages them not to fear, but to study hard to pass their exams.
She has now been working as a quality control manager with Leroy Cables Ltd. in Tema, just east of Accra, for two years.
She says: “As a woman, you yourself can be a barrier if you look down on yourself and feel like the male-dominated TVET jobs are for guys. You are the first barrier, then family, friends, and society. Once you break the first barrier and believe in yourself, all the others are nothing.”
This resource was produced as part of the Innovation in Non-traditional Vocational Education and Skills Training Project, INVEST, implemented by WUSC with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
Photo: Grace Tetteh-Fio, on the right in green, installing a solar panel.