Women in Engineering
Women in Engineering (WIE) is a chapter of the UCT IEEE Student branch. It is currently chaired by Oladayo Salami who also chairs the IEEE WIE South Africa. The UCT WIE seeks to provide women from both engineering and scientific backgrounds with a platform to network, share ideas and exchange experiences. Members are also given access to the WIE Membership directory which lists all the WIE and IEEE female members, thus aiding them in their networking.
Having noted the low number of females, particularly in South Africa, as they progress through the engineering field, WIE aims to provide mentoring facilities to better equip females for the rigours that a career in a male dominated environment might bring up.
WIE hosts events during the year to encourage women with common goals and backgrounds to meet and interact. Receptions, Forums and Workshops form the basis of these events, allowing members to meet in both a formal and informal context. Events are attended by notable females from both industry and academia.
Members are also provided with the WIE electronic newsletter that contains a plethora of information on career opportunities, reports and other IEEE news.
By joining the WIE, women can immediately start enjoying the benefits of being part of the largest scientific body in the world.
Life at UCT as a female engineering student
Having graduated last year, I can breathe a great sigh of relief! I'll tell you one thing though, getting here has not been easy. Is it harder for a female engineering student to succeed in UCT? That is a highly controversial debate into which I'm not going to go right now. I'll just say: it's not easy!
I graduated last year with a BSc in Electrical Engineering. A great feat, you might say. Indeed it is, at least for me. The problem is that once you've accomplished one goal, there are always more goals ahead. I'm now doing my Masters. There are a lot less females around me and I always wonder why!
In first year, I walked into my lecture room, not knowing what to expect. It didn't take me long to notice though that there were considerably more males than females in the class.
The girls were drawn to each other and soon there were little cliques all over the class. However, as the years went by, each of these little cliques was forced to disband as more and more females dropped out of Electrical Engineering. A classmate of mine related her story: "We started off as 5 girlfriends, and I'm the only one who made it to 2nd year." That is the sad story of many friendships that bloom in first year and don't make it to the next year.
In comparison, the male engineering students lasted a bit longer. Most made it at least to third year where "the boys were inevitably separated from the men." I used to ponder over this for hours. After close scrutiny at my classmates, and how a typical day was conducted, I came up with the following observations:
Listed above are only a few of the things I noticed as I trudged through the four years of engineering.
What kept me going? How were I and the other girls who made it to the end, able to graduate? How did we escape the pressures, devastations and stress? Did we really escape them or did we side-step and rise above them? Was it down to luck? How can we females encourage each other to keep at it and not give up? How can we be positive influences in each other's lives?
Join Women in Engineering, an affiliate of the IEEE UCT branch to learn these priceless life lessons. Come hear stories from those who have been there before and be encouraged by those who made it through.
It wasn't easy, but it was worth it!