WOMENG! We’re here to stay in STEM

WomEng? STEM?

What are those?? Well STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. WomEng aims to develop and attract more women in engineering. My school, The School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, at the University of the Witwatersrand, held a Women in Engineering event  last week. The school council tasked me to help out with photography and I’m really glad that they did. Most likely, after staying up till 3am finishing my design report that day, I would not have attended and I would have missed out on so many nuggets (more like huge chunks) of wisdom.

 

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I know my blog mostly focusses on fashion, beauty and photography, but I am an engineering student and if this post inspires someone out there to take up engineering, or just helps them deal with the environment that they are in, I’d have achieved my goal. The entrance “fee” to the event was a pack of sanitary pads, which were later donated. There are so many girls who don’t attend school because they can’t afford pads.

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The first speaker was Aditi Lachman, the programme coordinator of WomEng. You guys, she met the queen. You know which one! All through her endeavours for WomEng. And yeah, that was pretty impressive, but listening to her talk, was so much more. The main thing that stuck with me from her talk was: Celebrate your individuality. As women we’re expected, in the workplace, to conform to wearing only safety boots, and overalls covering our jeans and t-shirts, and if that’s you then that’s perfect! Aditi explained that she’s had so much practice with her heels on site, she can run in them. Another piece of advice: Always invest in comfortable heels. That struck a chord with me, as me wearing makeup to vac work has been questioned: “Oh how is she going to go into a plant with that?” Let me tell you how, I have a great setting powder. The shade of my lipstick isn’t going to make me less of an engineer. Another point to note was that, yes celebrate your individuality but keep up with the industry, not just that, thrive.

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Aditi Lachman

As chemical and metallurgical engineers, becoming an engineer isn’t the only route, many go into the banking sector. The second speaker was Fikile Msiza from Absa. I often forget that I’m basically an adult now, but I was reminded of this as Fikile spoke shop and informed us about personal banking options and investments. She called up her colleagues, who told us about money mistakes they made when they had just started out. I definitely picked up valuable info from them. Don’t just spend your money recklessly once you start earning, investing in assets or however you wish to invest, is so important. So is your credit score BTW. Another important thing to figure out, is your retirement fund, are your contributions to that significant enough to ensure you get quite a decent amount at the end?

 

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The ladies from Absa

So much to think about hey! Do you go into industry, banking or carry on with academics after graduating? Who’d want to stay in school right? Wrong, we heard from an academic from our very own School, Dr Michelle Low, and her close associates: Mapetswa Desiree Moropeng-Futhana and Rosalind Dos Santos. They each had a different journey to their Masters and all three felt it was their best decision. Mrs Mapetswa is also a mum! And her husband and little boy were there to support her and that just warmed my heart! I most probably won’t be pursuing a Masters anytime soon, but seeing that all three of them started first year together and that they’re still friends was really sweet. I hope that I can retain a few good friends from campus, for life.

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The last speaker, Phumzile Mohlakoana from Total South Africa, basically blew me away. On top of all her achievements she’s a mum. Talk about goals. One of my main concerns is that one day I’m going to want a family, and I want to be great at my job, and how will I balance it all? Phumzile emphasised how important it is to have a great support system, to be able to know you can rely on someone when you’ve got to give a talk at 8pm on a school night. Two other things she said stood out.

  1. Your career isn’t a ladder, it’s a jungle gym. There is no one clear path up, you have to work around, experience so many different things and learn from it all.
  2. The rewards are worth every sacrifice. When she started working she didn’t immediately buy a fancy new car, she saved up first. She now has two houses and a Mercedes. When she pursued her MBA (and got that Masters degree), she was working at the time, and even had to take unpaid leave to get everything done.  Did I mention that I am so inspired by her? I just figure all those nights we spend studying now, when we want to relax or go out, it’s going to come back to us 10 fold. (Well it better, coz I have expensive taste)

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All in all, I’m so glad my School Council put this event together, seeing so many amazing women gathered together and every one of them looking DAMN FINE was incredible.

Women are the future, and don’t you forget that!

Love, Cayla…

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