by Alishka Rabinarain

Women engineers rise

Gender concerns in engineering indentified

Karien Erasmus, GIBB sustainability manager
Karien Erasmus.jpg

GIBB has, for a long time, identified the incredible potential of women and, therefore, supported them through career development, training and mentorship programmes. Karien Erasmus, GIBB’s sustainability manager, believes that women, in particular, need to formulate and implement an individual development plan in order to position themselves steadfastly in the challenging engineering industry.


“Through historic hardship and challenges, women have grown stronger, resilient and more focused. We know what we need, what we want and how to get there. We know that we need to change this world for future generations,” said Erasmus at this year’s Global Women Engineers and Technicians Indaba.


The conference took place on 27 and 28 February 2013 at the Indaba Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg.


Planning and development

Erasmus said that through consciously and effectively planning for career and personal development, women will understand where they are, define where they want to be and chart a path to achieve this goal. However, she acknowledges that for women, it is difficult to create time for this planning, as they already have much on their plates in terms of family responsibility coupled with existing career demands.


“The fact remains that the world today is facing unprecedented challenges, climate change, environmental degradation and poverty – and the engineering sector has an important role to play in addressing these concerns sustainably. In this regard, women in this industry must understand the role that we have to play and we must equip and position ourselves so as to proactively contribute to improved ways and means of tackling projects. Therefore, it is important for us, despite our full schedules, to plan for our own development so that we can take up challenging opportunities with confidence,” she added.


Just as with engineering projects, she believes one's development plan has to be sustainable. “Your development must take the bigger picture into consideration; you need to understand what the world you want to leave behind should look like and how your skills, passion and expertise can contribute in this regard. We have to plan for ourselves and our own development so that we can change the world,” remarked Erasmus.


Tips of the trade

Erasmus was adamant that women need to believe they are capable of anything and everything. To help women on their way, she believes a mentor is extremely important.


“It doesn’t matter if they are men or women – you need to be able to connect with your mentor and learn from them. Women must always be willing to frequently raise their hands and voices in warranted situations; you need to bring the message across that you want to contribute in a positive and progressive manner,” she said.


Erasmus put networking high on the list for women to be successful. “You have to put yourself out there in the marketplace by selecting appropriate venues and opportunities; your networking should also be driven by your specific skillset and industry topics you feel passionate about; you also need to prepare yourself through practising your communications skills, as communication is vital in terms of getting your message across and understanding the messages of the industry”.


How can your company ensure sustainability?

She believes that the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) can be extremely helpful, from the company’s perspective, in ensuring the empowerment of women in the workplace is sustainable.


“The GRI is the leading sustainability benchmarking and reporting tool. It captures women empowerment by ensuring non-discrimination, training, education, diversity, equal opportunity, equal remuneration and ensuring a return to work after maternity leave.”


Through the GRI guidelines and indicators, companies can ensure they address all relevant issues pertaining to women empowerment in the workplace.

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