Felicia Dolo, Process Engineer at leading South African firm Erudite, shares her journey to joining a sustainably transformed EPCM company with a rapidly increasing market share and shares why she believes that more women should feel encouraged to enter the profession.
Gender diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) remains alarmingly low, as latest statistics from the Engineering Council of South Africa reveals that only six in every one hundred professional engineers are female.But as pupils across the country begin the process of considering their future careers and selecting their subjects for 2023, more young women should feel encouraged to consider engineering as a profession.
This is according to Felicia Dolo, Process Engineer of leading engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPCM) company Erudite.
“Engineering is one of the most exciting careers available because it offers a platform for lifelong learning. It’s empowering and enabling, allowing you to think independently and solve complex problems,” she says.
“Engineering has the potential to change the world and to improve every global citizen’s life. It allows us to create innovative solutions for some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as extracting resources from the earth without permanently damaging the natural environment.”
Becoming a successful engineer
Dolo’s own journey towards becoming a professional engineer began at a very young age, with vital support from her family and teachers.
“I was a curious child. I was the little girl who always wanted to understand why sound was coming from the radio, or how kitchen appliances worked, and wouldn’t stop asking until I received a satisfying answer or could open something to find out for myself.”
Defying the myth that women are not as good as men at subjects such as physical science and mathematics, she excelled at school. And next, despite fearing that her voice would be drowned out in what is an extremely male-dominated industry, or that she would not receive the same employment opportunities as her male peers, she then went on to pursue metallurgy and materials engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Finally, when she began her career as an engineer in 2018, she was pleasantly surprised to find that her co-workers were supportive, encouraging, and included her in all work-related tasks and discussions. Today, she is proud to work at one of the fastest-growing EPCM firms in both South Africa and Africa, where she feels highly valued as an engineer and her gender is never a consideration, she says.
“As an engineer, I have seen how important it is to have the input of diverse thinkers from various backgrounds working together to find new solutions. That’s why I believe that as soon as a child begins to show an interest in engineering, their parents and teachers should encourage them to find out more and practise skills associated with the trade.
“To high school learners, I would add that if you find physical science and mathematics interesting, don’t be afraid to select these as elective subjects, and to truly enjoy them and give them your all. If you want to pursue engineering, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
“Despite the many myths about the profession, engineering is a field in which gender plays absolutely no role in how well someone can do their job. Women are strong and intelligent, and engineering teams are always better off having both men and women onboard.”
Dolo adds that minerals and mining related engineering, in particular, is one of the most exciting fields available today.
“The mining industry is currently in a period of rapid change, as mining is quickly moving toward more sustainable solutions. Young, fresh-minded engineers are needed to drive efforts onward and I hope to see more women step forward and contribute their unique abilities to ever-expanding sustainable projects.”
Notably, as one of South Africa’s new EPCM firms, Erudite is involved in several global mining projects, with a strong track record in countries such as Madagascar, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Peru and South Africa. Through a tailored approach which emphasises transformation, local partnerships and skills development, the company assists local mining industries to develop sustainable socio-economic solutions to compete in the international market.
As a Process Engineer, Dolo’s responsibilities include analysing and troubleshooting process issues, developing and implementing process improvement strategies, and enhancing current processes to ensure optimal processing of raw material into a useable end product.
“Workplaces thrive on having a diversity of ideas and perspectives, which is why transformation is so vital. Erudite excels in this regard, which is what I think makes the company both an employer of choice and the partner of choice for mining projects across the continent.”
Encouraging women to enter engineering
Dolo has five tips for encouraging girls to one day become engineers:
- Start young: Gradually introduce girls to engineering and its associated skills at an early age.
- Find role models: Don’t just tell girls about engineering, but also show them examples of successful and inspiring women in the field.
- Get involved in engineering: Encourage girls to participate in special engineering programmes and workshops online and in person.
- Learn through play: Incorporate engineering into girls’ playtime by playing with building blocks or computer games with building mechanics.
- Encourage mentorships: Find a mentor willing to talk to girls about engineering during their high school years, and consider becoming a mentor to other girls and women if you are a professional engineer.