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The Vision for the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is:
A leader in educating well qualified professionals in engineering and the built environment as well as producing applicable knowledge that meets the demands of the South African economy.

The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment:

  • Provides education that is fit for purpose, dynamic and adaptable.
  • Advances South Africa’s developmental agenda.
  • Is a flourishing faculty in terms of research, innovation, community engagement, teaching and learning.
  • Practices active leadership and practices the principles of “Leading by Example” and “Engineering the Future”.

FOCUS AREA ONE: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Annual Summit, Networking and Motivation

An annual summit is planned to coincide with August as women’s month. The summit offers a networking and mentoring opportunity for professional and academic engineers and built environment professionals. The summit is also a major marketing opportunity for the faculty and Group Five; and is a prestigious annual professional event in South Africa. The summit focuses on the enthusiasm colleagues have for their chosen profession and aims to motivate women by highlighting the achievements in their careers.

 

National Awards for Excellence in Engineering and Technology

Group Five and UJ launched the first national awards for excellence in engineering and technology by women in 2010.  The aim of the awards is to recognize and celebrate the most outstanding women in engineering and the built environment in South Africa; and the winners are announced at the annual Summit.  Currently there are three categories for nominations:  excellence at company level; excellence at sector level; and most promising young engineer or built environment professional.

A secondary objective of the summit and the competition is to change the perception of engineering and the built environment; and in doing so to make these careers more attractive to young women.

Mentorship and Role Models

Mentorship is one of the key initiatives of the programme.  Many young engineers, both male and female, leave university and enter the work place without the guidance of a senior and experienced mentor. As a result, they become discouraged and isolated from their previous support network. Women in particular require a sense of belonging and WiEBE aims to fill this void by identifying willing senior women engineers as mentors for junior women.

A strong motivating factor for young women is the achievements of senior professionals in industry and academia. WiEBE profiles senior women on the UJ website and will market this initiative with a quarterly newsletter.

The Society for Women Engineers and Technologists (SWiET) is the student body of WiEBE; and the women students act as mentors for first year - and school learners.  In 2010 WiEBE partnered with The Future of the African Daughter Association (FOTAD) to tutor and mentor school learners in Math and Science.

Dinner or Breakfast Debates

Dinner Debates is an exciting initiative borne from the August 2008 summit. WiEBE facilitates in-depth discussion of current topics relevant to women in the profession. One such topic was the role of femininity in engineering and the built environment: “No longer one of the boys”. “Does Woman + Network + Development = Career Progression” was another interesting discussion.  During the Dinner Debate series ten to twenty professional women are invited to discuss, interrogate and lay down fundamentals that underpin their existing personal and professional lives. Such debate promotes the understanding and acceptance of the specific needs and requirements of technical women; and builds a conducive environment in which to continue working. The debates contribute to the body of academic literature in the field.

Networking

Networking is an area that requires more opportunity for women professionals.  WiEBE organizes and hosts quarterly networking functions and invites guest speakers to address the participants. These events allow women to network in a comfortable and relevant environment.

Professional Development and Leadership Academy for Women Engineers / WiEBE Dialogue Series

WiEBE plans to initiate a professional developmental programme in 2012 that will contribute towards CPD points. The programme will be offered via a series of one-to three day workshops and seminars; and will be modularized to provide individual or combined certification.  

The programme aims to highlight the role of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and to promote professional registration.

In 2013 the professional developmental programme will form part of a Leadership Academy for Women Engineers and Technical Professionals.

Industry Engagement and Roundtable Discussions

WiEBE plans to engage senior executives in industry to convey and discuss the findings of relevant research. The aim is to influence current practice positively. Organizations such as ECSA, SAWomEng, WiEBE and ASOCSA (Association of Schools of Construction of South Africa) may combine resources to effect gender-specific change in the engineering and built environment sectors. 

As example, the UKRC in the United Kingdom presents an excellent model for South Africa to emulate: “The UKRC is the Government's lead organisation for the provision of advice, services and policy consultation regarding the under-representation of women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment (SET).  We work with employers; professional bodies; education institutions; women's organisations and networks; policy institutes; sector skills councils; the government and many others to promote gender equality in SET. We offer tailored services and support for women at all career stages.”

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FOCUS AREA TWO: SUPPORT FOR EXISTING STUDENTS

SWiET Student Body

Due to the inspiration of Nickey Janse van Rensburg, the women students in the faculty have initiated a student body for the support and development of current women students: aptly named SWiET. This is a great initiative because it not only develops the leadership and management skills and creativity in young women, it also draws together the minority students across two campuses and develops a network amongst them. They are responsible for the planning and hosting of student workshops and information sessions in the faculty, and for visiting schools to promote engineering amongst school learners.

In 2010 WiEBE partnered with The Future of the African Daughter Association (FOTAD) to tutor and mentor school learners in Math and Science.  And this year the first Young Women in Schools Day was hosted by the WiEBE programme at Sci-Bono. The day was planned for secondary school learners to discuss the different fields of engineering and the built environment.  Sixty learners attended the event.

Academic and Emotional Support

WiEBE is very aware how different university is from school. Not only do first years need to adapt to the tremendous increase in workload, they also have to adapt to a new city, to the lack of parental and sometimes financial support, to the lack of emotional support of home and family life, and to the many attractions offered by this freedom. Youngsters decide to leave engineering in the first year due to the high work load and difficult academic curricula. They also leave later in their academic careers due to an inability to adapt to the many changes; psychological conditions that have not been resolved effectively; pregnancy and a lack of financial support. A network of women students in engineering therefore offers valuable support and guidance from peers to younger females entering university life.

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FOCUS AREA THREE:  ATTRACTION OF SCHOOL LEARNERS

School Visits and Open Day

SWiET visits schools to educate school learners about professions and options in engineering and the built environment. One of the initiatives of SWiET is to host young women at the FEBE Technolab, where they have the opportunity to design and create artefacts with Lego blocks and software. Also, SWiET has partnered with the Math and Science Centre at UJ to provide tutorship to young women interested in pursuing technical careers.

Financial Support

The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, together with industry partners, offers many opportunities for financial support and bursaries for students. It is important that school learners are aware of these opportunities and thereby broaden their choices. It is unnecessary for a young woman to forfeit the opportunity to study engineering due to a lack of money.

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FOCUS AREA FOUR:  COMMUNITY AND INDUSTRY ENGAGEMENT

WiEBE cannot develop women in engineering and the built environment without the active participation of professional institutes and industry in South Africa. Such participation is achieved with advocacy, mentorship, guest lectureship, part-time lecturing, funding, employment of students and graduates, training and support programmes for women in the work place, and the creation of modern and flexible work environments. 

WiEBE, in collaboration with organizations such as the ECSA, the Council for the Built Environment, and SAWomEng, can build a cohesive and strong support network for women in engineering and the built environment.