Every month is an opportunity to support diversity and inclusion, The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) is committed to supporting the diversity and inclusivity narrative in South Africa, and helping to mobilise initiatives aimed at changing the workforce demographics of engineers in the country. Innocentia Mahlangu, champion of SAICE’s Diversity and Inclusivity portfolio, believes that there is much work to be done if meaningful changes are to be implemented in the civil engineering industry.
The percentage of women in engineering across the globe is approximately 15%, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. In South Africa, only 11% of engineers registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) are female.
This is why, Mahlangu adds: “While diversity and inclusion issues have been brought to the fore in recent years, and there are pockets where progress has been made by individuals and organisations, we are not nearly where we should be.”
Acknowledging this, SAICE 2021 President Vishal Krishandutt, who has set his focus on diversity and inclusivity for his 2021 presidential theme, states that gender inclusivity is not only about being accepted but rather it is about being respected.
“Gender equality and empowerment is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The subordination of women has long been a burning issue with a historical footprint strongly underpinned by patriarchy, which continues to be deeply seated in today’s workplace, centred around male domination,” says Krishandutt.
In line with Krishandutt’s presidential theme, the association has been actively improving awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion as it applies to the civil engineering sector – not only during women’s month in August, but through regular communication and initiatives with members and industry partners throughout the year.
In fact, Mahlangu states that SAICE has made a concerted effort to increase the visibility of women as role models and the celebration of their achievements. “We have held targeted events and initiatives, including our upcoming Women in Hard Hats event, as well as the forthcoming diversity and inclusivity webinar In partnership with our young members panel (SAICE YMP).”
This webinar, themed “A Diverse and Inclusive Industry for our Future Leaders“, will take place on Thursday, 19 August 2021, at 17h00, and will feature prominent speakers from industry including Malani Padayachee-Saman, CEO of MPAMOT; Kim Timm, an Executive Engineer at AECOM; Innocentia Mahlangu, Project Manager at Hatch and SAICE Diversity and Inclusivity Champion; Michael Mhlanga, civil engineer and SAICE YMP Chairperson; and Tsebo Koena, Civil Technician at Zutari.
Mahlangu continues: “We are tackling diversity and inclusivity at every angle, and have been supporting research by academics on gender diversity and inclusion topics, with the intent that this will expand our knowledge base and help us execute a statistics-based awareness campaign.”
SAICE believes that diverse and inclusive work environments will foster plurality of thoughts and perspectives, allowing for innovative solutions, which will contribute meaningfully towards society’s advancement. Mahlangu says: “We realise that our industry requires deliberate interventions, to not only improve how we deliver our mandates as an industry but because it is the right and ethical thing to do.”
In addressing concerns by young females who feel that this industry is not accommodating for women, Mahlangu states: “There are still many challenges, but these are being actively addressed. We are now seeing more women shattering glass ceilings, breaking stereotypes and occupying spaces that were historically dominated by men. These women are clearing the path for many of us to follow and are being celebrated for their contributions. There is still much work to be done but I am encouraged that we are moving in the right direction and would encourage many other young women to take up a career in engineering.”