5 August, Johannesburg: Jani Bester, application engineer, Autodesk distributor and BIM evangelist, sets the bar high for women in the science, technology and innovation fields (STI). This year she will be speaking at the Autodesk University Extension (AUx) when it returns to Johannesburg on the 4th of September 2014 at the Forum in Bryanston.
The global demand for women in STI is at an all time high, yet the percentage of female engineers graduating from South African universities is static at a brutal rate of 10-15%.
“Engineering is not about constructing a super fancy bridge, it is about applying solutions to real problems,” says Bester. “And to do that effectively you need diverse brains to consider the challenge differently, and from all possible angles.”
The STI field is still male-dominant, despite the various institutional and governmental policies in place to support women entering the workforce. But, it may not be the common gender role stereotype that is scaring women off.
Engineering starts at a young age.
“Girls are typically brought up to play ‘house’ and play with dolls, while boys, from an early age, play with tools and blocks and get a sense of fixing things,” says Bester. “As a child I use to play with Lego, not Barbies.”
Many of the barriers to women pursuing STI careers are cultural. Women have accepted gender roles and stereotypes that have been passed down by generations. “
The solution? “Awareness,” says Bester.
Women – regardless of their social and economic standings – need to be both encouraged to pursue engineering careers and informed of opportunities that exist in engineering. Being aware of the opportunities that exist for them will enable women to break free from the stereotypes that they find themselves in.
Bester will be speaking at AUx later this year, highlighting the contribution and opportunity generated by software involved in collaborating architectural and engineering construction.