Aug 03, 2012
Consulting engineering sector to commit to attracting, retaining womenBack
Construction|Engineering|Africa|Consulting|Design|Ecsa|Environment|Malani Padayachee|Mining|PROJECT|Projects|Training|Africa|South Africa|Consulting Engineers|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)
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online
Other Consulting Engineers News
The Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) has opened its first in-house training centre to meet the growing demand for tuition by qualified members of and new entrants to the profession.
About 900 potential artisans, representing the first intake at project services corporation Hydra-Arc’s Secunda-based artisan training facility, Mshiniwami Training Academy, are well on their way to completing their training.
Draughting institution The Draughting Academy has received accreditation from UK-based skills development institution City & Guilds, and claims to have ensured enhanced compatibility with the certification.
Recent Research Reports
Water 2015: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2015 Report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context but also in the African and global context in terms of supply and demand, water stress and insecurity, and access to water and sanitation, besides others.
Input Sector Review: Pumps 2015 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2015 Input Sector Review on Pumps provides an overview of South Africa’s pumps industry with particular focus on pump manufacture and supply, aftermarket services, marketing strategies, local and export demand, imports, sector support, investment...
Liquid Fuels 2015: A review of South Africa's liquid fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2015 Report examines these issues in the context of South Africa’s business environment; oil and gas exploration; fuel pricing; the development of the country’s biofuels industry; the logistics of transporting liquid fuels; and...
Road and Rail 2015: A review of South Africa's road and rail sectors (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2015 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 infrastructure and network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and...
Defence 2015: A review of South Africa's defence sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Coal 2015 report examines South Africa’s coal industry with regards to the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local demand, export sales and coal logistics, projects being undertaken by the large and smaller participants in the...
Real Economy Year Book 2015 (PDF Report)
There are very few beacons of hope on South Africa’s economic horizon. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is rising, electricity supply is insufficient to meet demand and/or spur growth, with poor prospects for many of the commodities mined and exported. However,...
This Week's Magazine
Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, has the potential to completely change the relationships between individual consumers, professional designers and manufacturers. So argued Loughborough University Reader in Computer Aided Product Design Dr Ian...
Airbus Defence and Space: Military Aircraft has highlighted that its A330 Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) has significant commonalities with the Airbus A330-200 commercial airliner, upon which it is based. The South African Air Force (SAAF) once operated a fleet of...
Financial services provider Nedbank launched the second edition of its Carbon Footprinting Guide earlier this month, which is aimed at demystifying carbon footprint approaches and help readers grasp the main concepts of carbon measuring, monitoring, reporting and...
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Caterpillar’s first backhoe loader. This also coincides with the worldwide release of its latest-generation F2 series backhoe loader, which was launched at supply chain services company Barloworld Logistics’ Big Dig Day in...
A shortage of software engineers is leading to fewer information technology (IT) projects in private and public sector organisations. This also places a dampener on the economy, as IT is an integral part of business and civil service, says University of Witwatersrand...