Women contribute positively in the engineering sector through innovative and creative solutions that make a great impact in local communities and around the world. This is the message from Confidence Tshilande, a professional geotechnical engineer at leading consulting engineering company Zutari, on the occasion of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). Taking place annually on 23 June, INWED is an international awareness campaign celebrating the work and achievements of women engineers. Launched initially in the UK by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) as a national initiative, INWED has grown year by year, and has since achieved global reach and UNESCO patronage.
Confidence is part of the Ground Engineering team at Zutari, and works in technical design, site supervision and project management on various engineering projects. Her extensive project experience includes South Africa, Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Malaysia, Australia and Burundi covering various market segments from water to energy, the built environment, transport, resources and manufacturing. “I find it immensely rewarding to have experienced such a diverse mix of projects, as this has given me opportunity to contribute to solving global challenges and improving lives,” comments Confidence.
Commenting on her choice of career path, she says simply: “I wanted a career with the potential to bring about change in the society.” This resulted in a deep appreciation of the critical role that infrastructure plays in developing cities and communities. “I always wanted to be part of the solution to the challenges we face, such as a shortage of water, power, roads and housing and that’s how I knew that Civil engineering was the right career path to achieve that.”
Her typical day at Zutari generally involves solving engineering problems through the application of technical skills, collaboration with team mates and engaging with clients. As a geotechnical engineer, Confidence also travels to various sites to conduct site investigations and field tests in order to co-create meaningful solutions to clients’ problems.
Confidence is also an active leader in industry organisations such as the Geotechnical Division of South Africa Institute Civil Engineering and the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering’s Young Members Presidential Group. In these roles, she has contributed to the growth and attractiveness of the geotechnical fraternity among young and female practitioners in South Africa and across the world. Confidence was nominated and elected as a member of the University of Johannesburg’s council and Executive Committee of Convocation, which has enabled her to contribute to bridging the gap between higher education systems and industries.
In order to address critical challenges faced by women in industry, Confidence founded Prestiio, the first-ever social networking mobile app for women only, offering a safe space in which to address the inequality gap. The platform aims to foster global mentorship, promote STEM careers among women, and enhance upliftment between all users, regardless of race, age, culture and nationality. “We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which has given me an opportunity to embrace unconventional ways of doing things. This is such a great opportunity to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges. However, the biggest challenge is to get everyone on board and to educate our society, political leaders and clients on new and improved systems of doing things,” highlights Confidence.
Although women are now given equal opportunities in the engineering sector, there is still a lack of young girls following STEM careers. “There are many opportunities for women to take on. So we should never look down upon ourselves because we have the potential to bring about the change we want to see in the world. We are the enablers and drivers of this global change. When we embrace diversity and give women equal opportunities, we can achieve great heights,” Confidence concludes.