"People seem to have a lot of admiration and respect for girls who are 'brave' enough to accept the challenge of engineering," said Larissa Tredoux, a first-year Matie engineering student. She was one of the speakers at the Faculty of Engineering's annual Women in Engineering afternoon held on 6 September 2017.
This event was initiated in 2003 to promote engineering as a career amongst girls and to dispel the myth that engineering is for men only. Some 250 Grade 10 to 12 girls, who excel in Mathematics and Physical Sciences, were addressed by an all-female team comprising a student, a lecturer, an expert in the field of blended learning, and an alumna who is a civil engineer. Their message was clear: Engineering is demanding, challenging, exciting and rewarding - and women are more than capable to tackle the challenge and to succeed.
Larissa elaborated: "My first year as an engineering student has been one of the best of my life. It has also been one of the hardest. Stellenbosch is a whole new world to adapt to, but it is a good world. This year, I've worked harder than ever, I've learned more than ever, I've been challenged more than ever. But for me, because I love engineering, every minute has been worth it. I've embraced all the challenges and enjoyed every one of them.
"Sometimes I do feel like I am at a disadvantage, because I am a girl. I feel like I have to prove myself, to show that I can do everything as well, if not better than the guys. I work extremely hard, because one of my biggest fears is that I'll get a bad mark for something and people will say 'Oh, it's fine, it's because she is a girl'. That would probably be the biggest insult anyone could give me."
She concluded with this message: "Today I want to encourage you. Don't let anything get in the way of your dreams. Let the fact that you are a woman, be your greatest advantage. Let your determination to succeed, make you unstoppable!"
Dr Margreth Tadie, a lecturer in the Department of Process Engineering, had the girls spell-bound with her enthusiastic manner and inspiring message. She encouraged the bright, young ladies to aim for the impossible. She said: "We need women to study engineering, not because of gender equality, but because South Africa needs engineers!"
Dr Moira Bladergroen, Coordinator for Blended Learning at the Faculty of Engineering, gave the audience a glimpse of some of the modern teaching methods utilised in the Faculty, such as videos, recorded lectures and other online methods.
Tracy Wehr, who obtained her Civil Engineering degree at Stellenbosch University in 2011, told the poignant story about the stumbling blocks she had to overcome to qualify as a civil engineer. She encouraged the girls to take charge of their lives and to think ahead. They went home with her last words ringing in their ears: "You will make South Africa a better place if you become engineers."
Four lucky girls won an exciting prize sponsored by Sakhikamva's The Sky's the Limit Programme providing them the opportunity to have a day packed with aviation-related activities and the chance to experience a flight for the first time.
Reutech Radar Systems sponsored the speakers' gifts.
From the left: Dr Margreth Tadie, Tracy Wehr, Dr Moira Bladergroen and Larissa Tredoux.
Some of the girls who attended the function.