Seeing women participating in every level of the steel and engineering sectors and helping them realise their potential, is a vision central to the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC). This is part two of a two-part series.

… continued from part 1.

Steel skills

Nicolette Skjoldhammer, managing director of Betterect and chairperson of the SAISC takes a similar line to Ness on prospects for women: the future is bright, provided they have the skills and a ‘can-do’ approach:

“There is a huge demand in every industry – locally and globally – for skilled people, regardless of gender. The world is our oyster!” she comments.

All industries are tough, Skjoldhammer points out. Her advice to young people entering their chosen field is to learn to get things done.

“Take ownership of all that is within your control, get it sorted and the job completed. If you can master this skill, you will soar to great heights. Believe it or not, this sort of follow-through and application this is sorely lacking in many industries globally.”

Skjoldhammer says she was somewhat “flung into the deep end,” and appointed managing director at steel fabrication, installation, and corrosion protection company Betterect, in Krugersdorp, when her father took extended leave more than 12 years ago.

She acknowledges that she is fortunate to be running a steel fabrication business now, as women still face challenges, but that “a lot of those fights have been won and now is our time to shine!”

Skjoldhammer says that the SAISC has been encouraging young women to join the steel construction sector: “Over the next few years we will introduce young women engineers to SAISC member fabricators and erectors to work on site,” she adds.

“We are also encouraging a number of experienced women to join the SAISC Board, to deepen their management experience and exposure to the industry.”

Skjoldhammer was also among the guest speakers at the recent Women in Steel event, with a rousing presentation focused on the true meaning of empowerment – including, amongst others, empowering self-talk.

Steel learning

Karabo Ntoane, in her third year of a BSc in Civil Engineering, credits a high school teacher for setting her on a steel career path.

In Grade 8, Ntoane was inspired by a teacher who piqued in her curiosity about bridges:

“Since then, I always imagined myself studying one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. However, it was only after my first year at university that my interest in engineering solidified – as I became more aware of the role of engineers in society and in everyday life – particularly that of civil engineers,” she explains, noting her interest in the water infrastructure, structural and environmental aspects thereof.

That she was destined for a career in a male-dominated field, only really hit home in third year while working on group design projects.

“At that point, it was hard to step out and be bold as a woman, and to trust that the knowledge that I have acquired over the years was just as valuable as that of my male counterparts. However, I am so glad I have done so, and know I am on the right path to a successful and rewarding career in the civil engineering sector, in which I will be working with steel as a material of construction and seeing just how much can be accomplished using steel.”

“Along the way, I am so grateful for the input and wisdom of our lecturers, and I also look forward to further mentorship from experienced role players in the steel value chain,” Ntoane concludes.