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Women pursue careers in engineering, typically perceived as a ‘male dominated’ industry.

In South Africa, a report by the Engineering Council of South Africa has indicated a steady increase in the number of female engineers since 2006.

GIBB, a South African black-owned engineering consulting firm highlighted that according to a UNESCO report only 7-12% of young females are registered engineering students in Africa.

Paul Fitzsimons, General Manager of Power & Energy at GIBB commented: “The battle to grow and develop talent in a sustainable way needs to be looked at holistically. This means that organisations which are able to identify talent and retain this over time are able to compete more effectively in the market place as a result of the value of institutional knowledge which is built up.”

Voices of the women in power

Ayesha Gabier, an Electrical Technologist and specialist in electrification and reticulation, and energy efficiency, who has worked at the engineering firm for ten years describes her personal experience of deciding to  become an engineer in South Africa: “My mother was completely against me furthering my studies as she believed a woman’s place is in the kitchen. My father on the other hand, was always very supportive throughout my studies and even through my working years.”

Phylicia Moseamo, an Electrical Engineering Technician who specialises in electrical building services, design and supervision of electrical installations at GIBB, echoes a similar experience: “As a female, my mother was afraid as she felt the field [was] for men only.”

Amanda Hadebe, an Electrical Design Engineer and expert in electrical reticulation projects, has achieved many great accomplishments in her engineering career including working on the Chief Albert Luthuli Electrification design and the large-scale Kwa-Thema Electrification Restitution project.

The Chief Albert Luthuli Electrification design uses both a design and technological approach which excludes wire supports in an overhead distribution system.

Hadebe said: “Being a female engineer comes with its own unique challenges. Women must remember to celebrate and assert their presence. Young women in the industry still need a little bit more time to adjust their way of thinking and the fears they may have when it comes to male dominated professions.

“I offer advice and a platform for them to ask questions they may be typically too shy to ask and this in itself has had positive effects, breaking barriers and fears between what’s possible and not possible.”

Closing the skills gap and eliminating stereotypes

In a company statement, GIBB highlighted the importance of encouraging females to study engineering and pursue careers in areas of business, which will positively impact the growth of the economy.

The company added that this will not only assist with the critical skills gap but will serve as a competitive advantage on a global scale.

The consultancy firm added: “The evolution and progression of women in engineering has had a notable effect on the industry throughout the years. Quite simply, women in engineering are addressing a global need.

“Growth and interest in areas of science and engineering from the female population could be the catalyst for social upliftment, job creation and ultimately, progressive economic development.”