Mathapelo More sees herself as part of the transformation of the civil engineering and related industries, together with all of the other women hard at work in the field, and those about to embark on their journey. “I think being active in industry automatically inspires young women to join, as it shows it is possible to operate in this male-dominated world,” says Mathapelo on the occasion of Women’s Day on 9 August.
Born in Sharpeville, Vereeniging, Mathapelo is a Professional Engineer who has worked as an Asset Transformation Specialist at leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari for almost two years. This involves developing existing infrastructure that is otherwise a liability for the client and transforming it to the benefit of local communities.
Mathapelo’s team has capability in the closure of mines or old power stations. It also piggybacks off Zutari’s expertise in engineering, planning, science, the built environment and management to carry out these projects. “I fulfil an advisory role to the client regarding the use of existing infrastructure and developing and planning new projects. This is quite exciting, because often I do not know what shape or form the project will take.”
Mathapelo has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Graduate Diploma in Civil Engineering, with her main focus on Hydraulic Engineering, with both qualifications obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand. She joined Zutari in November 2018, since when her career has transformed from “something I wanted to do into something more aligned to my heart.”
Her work experience to date has included the Burnstone Metallurgical Plant in Balfour, Mpumalanga, where she contributed towards the site layout, on-site concrete batching plant and ultimately managing and being responsible for the manufacture of concrete and the site testing laboratory.
“One structure I am particularly proud of constructing was the mill feed silo, with a 2 m high base and a total height of 35 m, equivalent to a 12-storey building,” says Mathapelo. The concrete used was a bucket mix poured for two weeks non-stop, with the team working 24/7 in two 12-hour shifts. “Everything went according to plan. It was such a success because it was a real team effort.”
Mathapelo has also worked on the Medupi project in Lephalale, Limpopo, possibly the eighth-largest coal-fired power station in the world once fully operational. She was part of the team that constructed all of the infrastructure for the coal stockyards.
“Being active in industry automatically inspires young women to join.” – Mathapelo More
Zutari Principal Engineer Karin Meyer graduated from the University of Pretoria in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering (BEng). She is currently studying for her Master’s degree (MEng) in Civil Engineering from the University of Stellenbosch, specialising in Construction and Engineering Management. Her long road with Zutari began in January 2007.
As junior engineer, she started her career in the design office in Durban, and worked in Angola for almost two years on some challenging road construction projects, followed by a stint as Engineer’s Representative on the Matla Ventilation Shaft project between Ogies and Kriel in Mpumalanga. Karin then returned to KwaZulu-Natal to work on the Bayhead Road Upgrade project at Durban Harbour.
Being an eternal adventurist, Karin accepted an opportunity to work in Kenya as the Employer’s Representative providing technical support and oversight services on civil and structural work at the Tusker Brewery in Nairobi. “It was a completely new experience, and even though I was out of my comfort zone, it was fully rewarding,” she says.
“From my experience, there are many great men out there that want women to succeed, and they will never treat women differently professionally. At the end of the day, it is how we treat each other that counts. I strongly believe a person should advance in life through hard work and merit. I expect promotion because I am capable and can stand my ground. I also believe that women are stronger than what they give themselves credit for and that they can do anything they set their minds to, or are passionate about. Diversity definitely gives us strength, and women, just like men, bring value to the table,” says Karin.
“A person should advance in life through hard work and merit.” – Karin Meyer
If you wonder how Zutari manages to attract and retain amazingly talented people such as Mathapelo and Karin, you need look no further than Natachia George, Talent Acquisition & Retention Lead. Her team strategically partners with its business leaders to meet high-performing talent needs. “We work closely with our business leaders to understand our future skills needs to meet our growth aspirations,” says Natachia.
She joined Zutari close four years ago to build up the talent acquisition function. “It has been a very rewarding journey as we evolved from a transactional recruitment function to a strategic talent acquisition partnership with our business leaders. I am fortunate to work on multiple people projects, collaborating with business to attract and develop our next generation of leaders and create a culture of inclusivity that enhances our employee experiences and retains our best talent.”
Natachia points out that research reveals that the pace of change in achieving gender equality is painfully slow across all industries. “We have to move forward to achieve workforces that are inclusive and equal. Women have unique contributions to make in the workplace, enhancing institutional effectiveness and providing perspectives and priorities that serve to promote positive social outcomes and greater ethical accountability. Business leaders have to drive the journey of commitment to achieving equality in the workplace, and this can only be achieved through purposeful intentions with tracking and measuring in place to ensure sustainability.
“I think that the women in our industry are recognised and celebrated, but not enough. Women have a significant role to play socially and economically. However, workforce environments need to be empowering and supportive to deliver great impact. We need to shift from a tick-box exercise to total commitment and purposeful actions to achieve gender equality, because it is the right thing to do,” concludes Natachia.
“We have to move forward to achieve workforces that are inclusive and equal.” – Natachia George