Engineering is largely a male-dominated career. However, in recent years, more and more women have entered the engineering sector, and many more join them every year. Energy engineering is no exception. Studies have found that gender diversity often leads to better decisions being taken, and greater levels of innovation applied. At the same time, opening the field to women expands the number of potential new engineers entering the sector and often leads to an improved global image.
In many parts of the world, "Women in Energy" movements encourage young women to study engineering and work in the sector as engineers and technicians. These movements help to make it easier for women to enter the traditionally male dominated environment.
The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) takes the Women in Energy initiative seriously. SANEDI’s multiparty International Energy Efficiency (IEE) project contributes to gender mainstreaming by encouraging female participation in the energy sector. Gender mainstreaming is seen as vital for the African continent where gender inequality is quite pervasive. Many organisations in the energy sector support and encourage gender equality as part of the energy transition.
Simphiwe Mokonza is a young woman graduate chemical engineer who works on SANEDI’s IEE project. She joined SANEDI in November 2020 as an intern under the Data and Knowledge Management Programme. Mokonza, who is also currently pursuing her Honours degree, has her sights set on earning a PhD in chemical engineering.
Mokonza developed an interest in science from an early age and found an exceptional interest in mathematics. It was in high school that she developed a passion for chemical engineering and made that her choice when deciding on tertiary education. She now holds a bachelor’s degree in that discipline.
During her years of study, Mokonza developed an interest in energy efficiency, but it is at SANEDI, where she gained the opportunity to work in this field. The exposure to people working on industrial energy efficiency at SANEDI has made it a key focal area of hers.
Mokonza appreciates the women role models who work at SANEDI and hopes to become such a role model herself one day, encouraging other young women to enter and succeed in the energy sector. “I am very excited about my career in the energy sector as a woman, I hope my journey will inspire more youth and young women to enter into the STEM fields”, she says.
Her positive attitude towards her work and her enthusiasm for the subject has not gone unnoticed. Faith Mkhacwa, a former Senior Project Manager on the Industrial Efficiency Project at the South African National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA), and one of the leading women in the field of sustainable energy, encourages Simphiwe Mokonza to continue to learn and grow. “You are on a very exciting career journey and you work with some of the best people in the business. I am excited about your future,” Mkhacwa says.