South African women have permeated the so-called “male-dominated” industries as they continue to push boundaries to ensure gender balance and equal opportunities in the work space for all.
One such woman is a young Komani woman, Nomtha Jayiya, who found her passion in the engineering industry and is embracing being the rose among the thorns.
“In what is labelled, to some extent, a ‘man’s world’ I find comfort in seeing women who have created successful careers for themselves in the industry. It gives me courage because there is always that internal pressure to want to know the answer, to be able to show technical ability and leadership skills…being young and a woman has its challenges.
“However, one could set career goals as a woman and navigate through the challenges without worrying about being a woman because of structures that are in place – mining generally is a very challenging industry, but a very rewarding one,” said Jayiya.
The career-driven woman works for Sasol, who funded her studies, and she now works as an industrial engineer responsible for the development and execution of business improvement projects, particularly in Sasol mining in the digitisation department.
“I was funded by Sasol at university and started working at Sasol in January this year as part of a graduate development program which consists of multiple planned projects that are executed in various departments in the company. I am part of a team that primarily focuses on digital evolution in the mining sector, by bringing about business improvement through technology and innovation,” she said.
Jayiya, who attended Girls’ High School here, said her interest in engineering was sparked by her older brother and that it was not until she was at university that she truly understood what it entailed.
“I believe schools should invest more in educating young girls about careers in engineering and technology. The more role models we have in the sector, the more diverse it will be, but for us to get there we need to start early. Women are making a mark and I believe the stereotypes about women in engineering are slowly falling away. The more visible women are in the sector, the less doubt there will be in their expertise and the less of a challenge it will be, being a woman in mining, engineering, science and technology.”
Asked about what it was like being in woman in SA where the scourge of violence against women and children was on the rise, Jayiya said it was “frightening”.
“This is a thought that crosses my mind every day, more so on days where I have to leave home at 6am to get to work early, or even stay late at the office to meet deadlines. It should not be normal for women to be limited in their freedom of movement because of fear, but that has been our reality in SA. That you have to think twice before going somewhere or needing to be escorted somewhere is quite terrifying and sad, it is as though we are at the mercy of others.”
She said she believed more needed to be done to be proactive in the fight against gender-based violence, as it disproportionately affected women and girls.