I got to know Wilhemina through a mutual friend called Philomena Marfo, who is another strong African woman in STEM. I later realised that we are both part of the AIMS Alumni family. Here is our interview about Wilhelmina’s STEM journey;
Hi Wilhelmina, thank you for joining us today on this episode of Words That Count
Hi Winnie, thank you for having me.
Please introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Wilhemina Adoma Pels from Ghana. I’m currently a Statistics Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Energy and Natural Resource.
Please walk us through your STEM journey from childhood to becoming a Statistics Lecturer
My journey started from class one; I skipped kindergarten. I joined my colleagues in class one and my teacher realized that there was a huge knowledge gap because I had missed part of the syllabus content before class one. So because classes went on recess twice in the day, he would engage me during the second recess. He made me study always to help me catch up with my friends.
In class six my teacher realized the potential of me becoming a good Mathematician and made sure to mete out the appropriate measures to help me stay focused. He made me promise to myself never to get low marks in any Mathematics examination. This also made me come to the resolution to study hard to become a great Mathematician. In Junior High School, I placed third in a quiz and it turned out that I was the only female in the top three. This made me very proud.
I continued to do well in Mathematics even in Senior High School and I resolved to go on and study for a degree in it. So I applied for a BSc Mathematics at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). I got in and in the third year decided to specialize in Statistics. I selected more Statistics courses to study in my final year and wrote a statistics-based thesis on Domestic Violence.
After my undergraduate studies, I was accepted for a master’s degree at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Senegal. At AIMS, I was still very much enthused with Statistics and conducted more research in the field; on the Generalised Estimation Equation. I returned to KNUST to pursue a master’s by research (MPhil) degree in Mathematical Statistics. At the moment, I am a third-year Ph.D. student working on the Extreme Value theory.
That is my journey so far and it has not been a walk in the park. Most of the time I have had to be one of the very few females in the classroom.
I understand the hardships of being a woman in a class full of men. How did you keep inspired through such situations?
My inspiration for carrying on was my intolerance for men looking down on women in the sciences. I said to myself that I would aim high and achieve great things so that I could become a beacon of hope for other women, especially the young women in STEM.
Tell us about your achievements and awards along this journey
I am a Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Scholar. At AIMS I was a MasterCard Foundation Scholar, and in Senior High, I was the second-best Mathematician.
Who is Wilhelmina outside work?
I’m a fun person and an extroverted individual who likes to engage individuals in conversations. Even at work, I am the co-worker that would like to approach other co-workers and start a conversation.
What is your favourite quote?
“I define success on my own terms, achieve it by my own rules and build the life I’m proud to live” ~ Anne Swiney.
Leave us with a word of encouragement for a young girl in STEM
To the young ladies out there, do not allow yourself to be looked down upon by a man and think you are nothing, because you have all the potential within you. You need to stand out and make people know that you’re great. One thing I know is that women are great, so be great. Let people see you; women in the sciences should not be silent. Stand up for yourself, let people know that you have great potential within you. Women are intelligent and emotional, and this allows us to make science great.
Thank you for taking the time to encourage a young girl out there, and for speaking with me. We are grateful to have you as part of this project, Wilhelmina!