With the engineering sector still predominantly a male preserve, the success of every woman who qualifies to enter the field should be celebrated and should be seen as a worthwhile investment into the country’s technical skills base.
As recent as 2016 women constituted only 23% of STEM pool globally. Locally, according the Engineering Council of South Africa, only 11% of the total number of engineers registered with the council are female and only 4% are professional engineers.
And so it was perfectly fitting that the virtual graduation of Sindiswa Senelisiwe Mbatha, at the end of May, was accompanied by ecstatic ululations, song and dance. What made the occasion even more extra-ordinary is the fact that she passed her National Diploma in Industrial Engineering cum laude earning herself the Durban University of Technology (DUT)’s ‘Dean’s Merit Award’. Her achievement makes her an important addition to the pool of young female scientists in the country.
The 25-years old Mbatha hails from Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and she ascribes her success to the assistance and support from her family. Said Mbatha: “My parents, two siblings and my 6-year-old son are my biggest cheerleaders. They are always rooting for me and they believe in me more than I believe in myself. So, when I shared the news of my achievement with them, they were so happy and super proud of me,” she said.
But it has not been plain sailing for Mbatha as she had to endure and nurse the psychological scars of having been mugged on her way home, just a month after arriving at DUT.
“My tertiary journey started off on a bad note, I was mugged exactly a month after I started my course when I was walking to my place after my last lecture. That whole experience traumatised me so much that I even ended up moving from my private accommodation to Berea Residence. My move made me more at ease which resulted in making my studying experience a little better,” said Mbatha.
She also expressed gratitude to her class mates whom she said stepped in and provided her with the support she so needed at her darkest moment. Mbatha said: “I struggled with a module or two in each semester, but I overcame all of those struggles without asking for assistance from my fellow students and lecturers. This meant putting in extra hours. In them I found a support structure and I will forever be grateful to have crossed paths with them. I honestly don’t think I would have made it past my first semester modules if they were not there. The late nights in campus and meeting up during weekends paid off in the end.”
In terms of her achievement, Mbatha said she did not expect it; however she is excited to see her hard work and dedication paying off and more importantly being acknowledged. She said she feels honoured and encouraged to put in the same amount of effort as she prepares for her next qualification.
Said Mbatha: “As any other female in a male dominated career path, I am working towards acquiring and mastering all the necessary skills I need to equip myself with to be the best industrial engineer. The plan is to use the entry positions to gain the experience so that when the leadership position comes my direction I will be armed with all the necessary qualities to be a successful female industrial engineer.”