An annual event that celebrates the incredible contributions of women engineers worldwide, International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) mark its 11th anniversary in 2024 under the theme of #EnhancedByEngineering. This year, INWED celebrates women engineers who have enhanced lives and livelihoods through their work. These remarkable individuals contribute to building a brighter future for all of us.

Retang Maphothoma, Civil Engineering Technologist, AECOM

Retang works in the Transportation and Highways Department, mainly on roads and stormwater projects, whereby she liaises and manages tasks from the Enterprise Capabilities (EC) side for the United States in different districts from her base at the AECOM head office in Centurion.

“Engineering is about problem-solving and making tangible differences within communities,” says Retang. Her passion for engineering was ignited as early as high school when she elected technical subjects to study. Having a great teacher who was really passionate and put in a lot of effort contributed significantly to her career.

Ending up in civil engineering and having experienced the work environment, her passion is all about the problems she assists to solve. “Engineering gives me that opportunity to make a difference within South Africa, or the world for that matter, by providing clean water, ensuring sustainable public transport, quality roads, and promoting a sustainable environment for everyone.”

Only at AECOM for a year to date, Retang says the company is highly supportive of new graduates and new people. “It has been really great. Just making the move to AECOM has contributed positively to my life in that I have access to a lot of additional resources like AECOM University and its digital tools.”

This has been especially meaningful coming from a smaller consulting company without the same resources. “Coming to AECOM has been wonderful, especially with regard to having received excellent mentorship from my line managers, who have been highly supportive.”

Retang notes that from day one when she joined, she was involved in US projects in Georgia and then North Carolina. “It gave me that opportunity to grow and also learn some international guidelines and standards. Looking back since I joined there has actually been a significant growth in my career.”

Regarding the 2024 INWED theme of #EnhancedByEngineering, Retang says it reflects the overall infrastructure development happening globally. “It is all about building a sustainable environment and looking at how things can be done easier as compared to before.” While engineering has traditionally been categorised as a male-dominated industry, “we have learned that engineering actually transcends gender stereotypes. It is about making a difference.”

Retang comments: “I believe that I and all other women have a voice in the engineering industry and the same capability as men. Traditionally, women’s mindset was channelled away from STEM fields. However, we now realise we do have a voice and can excel and lead as women.” Her message to girls aspiring to pursue a career in any engineering field is to believe in themselves, to pursue their passion relentlessly and to remember that they are just as capable. “We as women can do it better. Engineering welcomes diversity and our unique perspective. It is all invaluable. We all matter, and we are all capable,” concludes Retang.

Adharta Krishandutt, Civil Engineer, AECOM

Adharta is a Civil Engineer within the Building Civils division in the Cape Town office. Her day starts off with a light-hearted catchup with her team before diving into work-related activities. Her role entails designing, planning and managing civil infrastructure for both private and public clients, mainly working on international projects around the globe. Adharta says that the primary focus in her career is improving service delivery, enhancing the environment and the overall betterment of the communities involved.

“I participate in multiple collaboration sessions with my colleagues where we brainstorm new ideas and find solutions to solving complex engineering problems on large-scaled projects.” This is despite only being at AECOM for 11 months. “Being thrown in the deep end is sometimes inevitable in engineering however I am part of a diverse team of brilliant individuals who are always willing to assist and support each other.”

Adharta also adds: “Since joining AECOM my journey has been truly fulfilling. I have been on a positive career trajectory from the start, and I have gained a sense of accomplishment as an engineer.”

Her career path was set in high school where Adharta’s flair for mathematics and physics, drove her to pursue engineering. It culminated with her graduating from the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban with a BSc in Civil Engineering, followed by five years of work experience.

“In terms of keeping that passion and drive alive, there are certainly two factors that encapsulate my love for engineering,” notes Adharta. The first, and the most important, is knowing that she has contributed to shaping the world to be a much safer, more innovative, and healthier place to live in, to a point where it becomes her personal commitment to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Second is the ability to challenge herself, both technically and professionally, especially in high pressure environments. “It is definitely a thrill-seeking sensation for me. Once you combine the two, it literally fuels my passion for engineering.”

Adharta says the INWED 2024 theme of #EnhancedByEnginering reflects the overall impact that engineers have on society. “As people go about their daily activities, there is always some type of engineering in the background. Every time you open a tap or switch on a light, something as simple as that, there are engineering systems behind it that keep these necessities functioning and operational.”

She adds that female engineers continue to be hugely underrepresented globally. “It is not only important to address the skills shortages in engineering, but also aim to achieve gender inclusivity and equality within the profession. This aligns greatly with INWED’s purpose in focusing attention on the numerous opportunities available to women and girls who want to pursue a career in engineering or who are already working in the field.”

Adharta’s message to young girls, which is something she truly holds close to her heart, is when embarking on an engineering career, it is important to always remain true to yourself and believe in your abilities. Being a female entering a male dominated industry, there are internal pressures of having the need to change yourself, to feel accepted, obtain approval or satisfy others.

“Once you have mastered the ability to stay true to yourself, you have already accomplished the biggest part of the journey. Engineering is not only a rewarding and fulfilling career choice; your contributions go above and beyond to making a significant difference in this world,” concludes Adharta.

Xanthe Adams, Associate Engineer, AECOM

Xanthe joined AECOM a few years ago, with 20 years of industry experience under her belt. She adds it is not difficult to remain passionate about engineering. “It gets better because you see more and more of the overall picture. You are not just stuck in the details; you get to see the overall effect.”

She adds: “The main thing about engineering is how it contributes to society, while a related aspect is simply how much I enjoy it all, from the software to the maths and problem solving.” In addition, there is plenty of scope for exposure to international projects and different cultures and ways of working.

“That is the cherry on the cake and a major focus for AECOM,” stresses Xanthe. “You also see the youngsters come in as well under you, and you are able to pass some of your learning onto them. Mentoring is crucial, especially as so many engineering fields are highly specialised.”

Xanthe says the INWED 2024 theme of #EnhancedByEngineering reflects how engineering “is absolutely critical to keeping the wheels running of everything. It is ubiquitous to the point of being unnoticeable. There is so much that you do in your daily life that is affected by engineering.”

A side effect is that it sometimes tends to get taken for granted, including the engineers who toil behind the scenes. “This is why events like INWED are actually quite important to promote engineers and their contribution.”

Xanthe’s message to young girls is simple: “Do not be intimidated. There will be great people who will support you and mentor you. The odds are in your favour. I have been on-site as the only woman among 800 men, and it was actually fine. Most of the men were absolutely lovely.”

It also speaks to the ethos of AECOM because the company is deeply invested in diversity and inclusivity and assisting young graduates. “As an industry, you obviously have to have a future pipeline of skilled engineers. You must start somewhere by nurturing talent,” concludes Xanthe.

By Admin