Globally, the engineering industry has traditionally been driven by males, however, there has been a shift over the last few years. Air Products has also been contributing to the transformation of the industry in this regard, by focusing on the significant role that women play throughout the company and their contribution to the field of engineering and science.
According to a report in June 2021 by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) in the UK, women represent 14.5% of all engineers. This highlights an increase of 25.7% in women in engineering occupations since 2016. Between 2016 and Q3 2020, there has been an increase of 185 199 women in engineering occupations (¹). Even though South Africa scores below the global average of 30% of women pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, they are narrowing the gap, as the country leads in Sub-Saharan Africa (²).
Air Products prides itself on its innovative culture, and this not only relates to production processes, but also being innovative as far as providing opportunities for women.
International Women’s Day provides the ideal opportunity to highlight the importance of females in production as well as commercial positions within the company.
A fine mix of engineering knowledge and experience
Speaking to three women in Air Products’ Bulk division, you realise they are qualified and experienced in the engineering industry and are committed to pursue their careers in this field. According to them, the ability to transform material and to learn new science-related things every day, as well as their aspirations as young girls, is what motivated them to follow a career in engineering.
They state that engineering requires skills, experience and a “can do” approach. Although it remains a predominantly male industry, Berndene de Wet (Business Development Manager), Carine Ganne (Bulk Sales Engineer) and Vuyokazi Mhlwatika (Key Accounts Engineer) all agree that there has been a change in the industry. What they do find encouraging, is the fact that female students are increasingly encouraged to pursue careers in science and math.
Between Berndene de Wet, Carine Ganne and Vuyokazi Mhlwatika, the qualifications alone are quite impressive. Berndene de Wet holds a BEng Chemical Engineering degree, Carine Ganne a National Diploma in Chemical Engineering and Vuyokazi Mhlwatika obtained a BSc Chemistry degree as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management.
Talking about their respective roles within Air Products, it is clear that they are passionate about what they do.
The role of innovative engineering solutions
All three ladies agree that besides providing outstanding customer service, they also aim to assist customers by offering innovative solutions. This is one of the most exciting aspects of working as an engineer as you are challenged to use science to investigate alternatives. Ultimately, what you aim to achieve, is to assist a customer with ways in which they can improve their processes, as well as minimize wastage and downtime.
An as engineer, customers perceive you as the best person to find a workable, cost-effective solution.
Encouraging young females
There is a clear message for females wanting to pursue a career in the engineering field from these Air Products engineers: “Go for it and do not let anyone tell you otherwise if that is really what you want to do. Your determination, passion and drive will carry you through the challenges and obstacles. Giving up is not an option – just find a way to go through or around the obstacles and you will reach your destination.”
 Wes.org.uk. 2022. Useful Statistics | Women’s Engineering Society. [online] Available at: https://www.wes.org.uk/content/wesstatistics [Accessed 7 March 2022].
 2022. [online] Available at: https://www.iol.co.za/education/sa-narrows-the-gap-of-women-in-stem-careers-ranking-highest-in-sub-saharan-africa-edc9d70b-c5ad-42d7-b86b-b6511a213f1b [Accessed 7 March 2022].