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Women make excellent engineers the main message at Women in Engineering event

Women make excellent engineers, there’s no doubt about that. This was one of the strong messages conveyed at the Faculty of Engineering’s 17th Women in Engineering annual event, which took place on 11 September.

Approximately 195 female learners (Grade 10 and 11), who excel in Mathematics and Physical Sciences, attended. The young ladies (from the Cape Peninsula, Boland and Swartland) listened to inspiring talks by three women who are passionate about engineering, maths and science:

The first speaker, Wendy Horn, Principal at Protea Heights Academy in Brackenfell, was a top 50 finalist in the 2018 Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation. She said: “I love teaching and I am inspired by the mysteries and complexities of science. I saw young girls in my classes, following the path of little Red Riding Hood. Being steered away from a career in the sciences, in engineering, not taking on leadership roles because of the expectations that you will follow the safe path. Many of you are trained to keep your eyes down and not be curious, since the first time your parents read you these fairy tales at bedtime. You have the power to change the world. You can tackle poverty, climate change and just make the ordinary person’s life easier. If you have the desire to do practical things that bring about lasting solutions with a global impact, engineering is the field for you. If the power to invent the future is what motivates you, then take the path less trodden. Be brave, take risks, be curious, lead, make mistakes then make more mistakes, but never give up.”

Prof Cara Schwarz, the first female full professor in Engineering at Stellenbosch University, shared her experience with the audience. In her talk, titled My 25-year journey: From high school nerd to Professor in Engineering, she stressed that being female and being and engineer are not mutually exclusive. “Females make great engineers,” she noted.

Nicole Taylor (a master’s student in Mechatronic Engineering) had the audience spell-bound with her anecdotes about her recent exciting research trip to the Antarctic on the SA Agulhas II.

The afternoon ended with an interesting Q&A session, led by a panel of female academic staff and postgraduate students.

Photograph: The Grade 10 and 11 learners who attended the Faculty of Engineering’s 17th annual Women in Engineering event on 11 September 2019.