Aug 03, 2012
Consulting engineering sector to commit to attracting, retaining womenBack
Construction|Engineering|Africa|Consulting|Design|Ecsa|Environment|Malani Padayachee|PROJECT|Projects|Africa|South Africa|Mining|Consulting Engineers|Ecsa|Infrastructure|Padayachee|Power
© Reuse this
Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (Cesa’s) biannual recruitment survey, published in December 2011, reflected the following figures – a 5% participation by women in the professional engineers category, a 3.9% participation in the professional technical engineers category and a 9.4% participation in the professional technicians category.
Padayachee states that the numbers are a concern, but given the fact that Cesa often excludes the mining sector from its biannual survey, a large number of women participating in the mining consulting industry might not have been included.
“I believe female participation in the consulting sector is increasing, but [this is happening] slowly,” she states, adding that there is a lack of female role models to inspire girls to consider pursuing civil engineering as a career.
Further, she stresses that the engineering industry is not conducive to attracting women, owing to difficulties in balancing work and family life.
“If you look at the number of women graduating from engineering programmes it would appear that the gap between male and female engineers is closing, but most of the female graduates are actually employed by financial institutions and never register as practising engineers with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).”
“Family responsibilities are more the domain of women than men. Therefore, women tend to work in financial institutions as project managers and not in the engineering sector, in which they qualified,” says Padayachee.
She explains that financial firms tend to offer a working environment that is more conducive to a woman’s social needs and provide flexible working hours, making it easier to balance work and family life.
Padayachee states that MPA is trying to change this trend by offering its female consulting engineers more flexibility.
“If it were not for the strong support struc- ture I have in my life, I would not have been able to accomplish what I did,” says Padayachee, reflecting on the success of MPA, which has a majority women equity ownership and celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year.
The company points out that many women practising as consulting engineers run one-woman practices, as they have young children and lack adequate support structures to allow them to enter the field full time.
“These women do not have the time to join Cesa or ECSA initiatives.
“If, at least, there was a forum where their voices could be heard, young female students would have the confidence to pursue the possibility of balancing consulting engineering, and work and family life. That kind of message really needs to come through strongly,” Padayachee emphasises.
To ensure that graduates realise the importance of registering as practising engineers, MPA has a mentorship programme that guides graduates through the process.
“It is vital for graduates to get registered, which demonstrates they have the training and skills to function on their own as professionals,” the firm stresses.
Further, Padayachee says there are many unemployed female engineering graduates, owing to the unwillingness of some firms to hire inexperienced graduates.
“More programmes should be implemented to ensure this does not happen.”
The firm adds that the slow infrastructure roll-out by the public sector adds to the shortage of employment opportunities, as projects are not materialising fast enough.
Historically, many South African construction and engineering companies relied heavily on contracts awarded by the public sector, which has now substantially reduced its expen- diture on infrastructure development.
“Industry participants claim there is a short- age of engineers but consultants don’t want to employ graduates and prefer [to employ] experienced engineers. It is a catch-22 situation,” says Padayachee.
In addition, MPA says there are many young women in government positions functioning as project managers only.
Unfortunately, with the limited skills capacity in government, they are not gaining the required experience for ECSA registration, says Padayachee.
They are not exposed to design packages and are employed to make decisions for which they are not qualified.
“When these women want to re-enter the private sector, they are compared with individuals who have hands-on experience and salary negotiations tend to be problematic,” says Padayachee.
She adds that women in the consulting field are continuously required to prove their worth.
“As a female in this sector, you are constantly challenged, irrespective of your age or experience. After 22 years as a practising engineer I am still challenged on my technical ability,” notes Padayachee.
She stresses that knowledge is power and encourages women to use the skills and attributes they contribute to the sector to change the perception that it is a man’s job.
She points out that this perception is also prevalent among school learners who think of engineering as a hands-on construction job. “This perception should be tackled during life orientation and guidance counselling at schools to educate learners that engineering is a field suitable for males and females.”
Padayachee states that attributes such as a “big picture approach” and an ability to reprioritise at short notice are just a few skills that females bring to the consulting engineering sector.
Padayachee, who is a member of the ECSA board, says that, while she tries to change the stereotypes in the engineering industry, she is a lone voice and more women should come forward, take a stance, prove their abilities and make their voices heard.
She regularly has a high tea with the female workers in her organisation to help them deal with gender bias in an appropriate way. Members outside the organisation are also invited to attend.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Consulting Engineers News
The professional planning part of the civil engineering industry is becoming increasingly reactive in terms of preplanning, instead of its primary, and preferred, focus of being proactive, says multidisciplinary engineering consulting firm GIBB.
Regulation issues, including the procurement of consulting engineering services, remain one of the biggest challenges faced by the consulting engineering industry, indicates Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (Cesa’s) latest Bi-Annual Economic and Capacity Survey...
Updated 2 hours 13 minutes ago A Spoor & Fisher partner on Wednesday called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to finalise its proposed policy for Intellectual Property (IP). The policy, which had not been drafted in consultation with IP law experts, was published in September 2013,...
Updated 2 hours 23 minutes ago Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has called on all government leaders to play a crucial role in ensuring that government departments and entities improve their audit outcomes. He has raised concerns over irregular expenditure, non-compliance with legislation, auditees...
Updated 2 hours 39 minutes ago The Somalia Stock Exchange expects seven companies in the telecoms, financial services and transport sectors to list their shares when the bourse is set up in 2015, its founder said. Somalia's economy is slowly recovering from more than two decades of conflict,...
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
This Week's Magazine
JSE-listed real estate investment trust (REIT) Rebosis Property Fund achieved a distribution growth of 8.1% to 99.45c per linked unit in the financial year ended August 31, despite volatile market conditions.
A low-cost, inflatable incubator won this year’s international James Dyson design award, which aims to encourage and inspire the next generation of design engineers.
The World Bank released its ‘Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency’ report last month and ranked South Africa 43 out of 189 global economies for its ease of doing business, with Singapore topping the rankings.
Air Products South Africa officially launched its R300-million Eastern Cape air- separation unit (ASU), at its new manufacturing facility in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), earlier this month. It is the second facility that Air Products launched in South...
BMW South Africa (SA) has signed a power purchasing agreement with energy company Bio2Watt. The offtake partnership will bring renewable energy to the carmaker’s Rosslyn plant, north of Pretoria.