Women in Engineering : Ra’idah Vaid

On the eve of Women’s Day, we spoke to Anheuser-Busch InBev’s energy and fluids manager, Ra’idah Vaid, about her journey in the male-dominated field of engineering.

Just this year alone, women have revealed and spoken out countless times about the many prejudices they are faced with in the workplace, as compared to their male-counterparts.

You can guess for yourself the many prejudices women in engineering are faced with in their field. Take for example a recent column by South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) CEO, Manglin Pillay, about women engineers that “prefer not to occupy high-profile executive posts because they would rather have "the flexibility” to dedicate themselves to more important enterprises like family and raising children than to be at the beck and call of shareholders".

In his column, Pillay went on to question whether, “SA should be investing so heavily into attracting females into STEM as evidence showed women are "predisposed" to caring and people careers”.

Such blatant and misogynistic views are just the tip of the iceberg, but thankfully, they are now being met with well-deserved fury, with many asking for Pillay’s removal.

The challenges women in science have to overcome

Being a woman in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry, Ra’idah has had her fair share of challenges and injustices, but has swiftly managed to overcome them.

“Many people thought I was incapable because I was a female. So you must work twice as hard as the men to earn half the respect”, she said. Over the years, Ra’idah has climbed the career ladder, and progressed through various roles, from being a team leader, to unit manager, safety manager, and now energy and fluids manager at ABInBev.

Women celebrating women, and breaking the social boundaries

Organisations such as the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World OWSD, are providing leadership, and are role models for young people who wish to enter the field of engineering. They celebrate the progress of women's education, and recognise that it needs more work to ensure that women and girls have full access to educational and employment opportunities in STEM.

Breaking social barriers and challenging a system which supports patriarchy is not an easy task. With the increase of young women at universities taking on male-dominated career fields, such as engineering, Ra’idah couldn’t be more proud, especially in the increase of black women: “Black women are emerging at the forefront, and I love it! A woman I went to varsity with is running a company that promotes green engineering. It makes me smile inside every time I see a new post from her on LinkedIn promoting what she is doing”.

Why does South Africa need women in STEM?

Why not? Increasing the number of technologically trained women is essential for development.

And according to various research findings conducted by OWSD, “creating environments that support girls’ and women’s achievements and interest in science and engineering will encourage more girls and women to pursue careers in these vital fields”.

If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in engineering, click here to find out more about the engineering field.