South African women taking Engineering careers by storm


Picture1.pngNearly every element of our modern lives is a result of work done by an engineer. Engineering, as we all know it, is a male dominated field. In fact, most STEM fields are male dominated. In 2016 women made up only 23% of STEM talent globally. According to the Engineering Council of South Africa  only 11% of the total number of engineers registered with them are female and only 4% are professional engineers.

The stats might not be as colourful, but the few women in the industry are making a difference and paving the way for future inspiring female engineers.  In Woman's month, we look at some phenomenal woman in the Engineering industry.

Nonkuleleko Nyembezi-Heita
Pietermaritzburg born Nonkuleleko holds a BSc Honours degree in electrical engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology and a Master's degree in the same discipline. She led the South African arm of the global steel company based in Luxembourg, the largest producer of steel on the continent with a production capacity of R7.8 million tons annually. In 2012 Nonkuleleko was listed 97th in Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women.

She reckons South Africa needs more engineers, and with studies suggesting that by 2020 most jobs will require STEM education, it is advisable that those passionate in the field that have a flair for maths and science should be encouraged to enter the field.

Hema Vallabh
Hema holds an MSc Degree in Chemical Engineering and practices as a Process Engineer. She is a chemical engineer by profession and a change-maker by passion! Her determination to reduce the severe shortage of female engineers in South Africa has earned her a spot in the Mail & Guardian's  2011 list of 200 top young South Africans. She was also awarded the South Africa's Most Influential Women in Engineering branded "Change-Maker" by the Oprah Magazine.

She is the co-founder of WomEng, an international NPO developing the next generation of female engineering leaders. WomEng presents an invaluable platform for the advocacy, advancement and education of women entering the engineering industry. She now heads The Passionate Professional and has become a mentorship specialist.

Prianka Padayachee
As a little girl, Prianka spent her days breaking computers and TVs so she can put them together again. Her dad taught her how to change a car's oil and tyres. She loved geography and decided to study geology. Anglo awarded her a bursary and she moved into engineering. She now holds a BSc in Mining Engineering from Wits. She was the first woman to chair the Wits Mining School Council.

She was the first female president of the Students Mining Engineering Society at Wits and was chosen to be the main liaison between the school and the then minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu. She has since gone on to further her qualifications in explosives engineering and currently heads up the drill and blast section at Anglo American Coal (South Africa's Zibulo Colliery) Her ultimate goal is to become CEO of Anglo American.

Women like,  Prianka Padayachee, Hema Vallabh and Nonkuleleko Nyembezi-Heita are proof that women are capable of doing and being whatever they desire to be. The world would progress much faster if we had more confident and smart women like them in every industry. Nevertheless, young women wanting to opt for STEM careers, the path has been paved and the possibilities are limitless.  

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