Prianka Padayachee, 4th year BSc Mining Engineering, is the first female president of the Students Mining Engineering Society on campus. About 40% of the School of Mining Engineering is made up of female students. Both males and females voted for her to take up the position.
What is it like being a female president in a male-dominated faculty?
It’s difficult, obviously. It takes a lot of getting used to, especially because the guys in the school were not used to it. But over time it has become more acceptable for women to be in leadership.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist but I do believe there shouldn’t be a division in what women can and can’t do. You don’t need to be anti-men to be pro-women. Women should start believing in their abilities.
Why did you choose to do engineering?
I was always interested in the sciences and practical work, and getting my hands dirty. I never saw myself sitting in an office for the rest of my life.
What are some of your most notable achievements?
Well, apart from being the first female president of the Students Mining Engineering Society, last year I was chosen to be the main liaison between the school and the [then] minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, for the mining conference hosted at Wits. I was chosen by the school to deal with the minister, discussing anything she needed to know.
What was that experience like, working with someone with such a high standing in society?
It was an eye-opener. It’s so easy to sit in front of a TV and judge someone’s work. Mining is no longer just about getting minerals and metals out of Earth. It involves politics and many other factors that govern the industry as a whole.
What are some of the false perceptions women have about engineering?
It’s really not a dirty job. It’s not necessarily “unfashionable”, you won’t always get grease under your nails. It’s not only for men. There is another side of engineering. It is logical, creative and innovative and women tend to excel in those fields.
Who inspires you?
Khanyisile Kweyama, a business director at Anglo American. She is in a top position and she makes important decisions about mining. She is the perfect representation of the influence women have in mining.
This article was featured in the Wits Vuvuzela