Miss Gugulethu Moyo is a civil and water engineer practising in the South African engineering consultancy sector and has previously worked in municipal engineering in Zimbabwe. She grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where she studied for her degree in civil and water engineering at the National University of Science and Technology and is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy degree assessing water losses in water distribution systems focusing on the city of Bulawayo. In 2016, she was selected as one of the 90 women from 19 different countries to participate in the Techwomen program under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with the U.S. Department of State. She had the opportunity to be mentored at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission where she experienced advanced municipal operations allowing her to leverage the experience and apply it in the municipality she worked in. In November 2018, she was awarded the prize for an outstanding oral presentation by a young water scientist at the 19th Waternet Symposium. The award aligns with her interests which are in climate change adaptation and development of sustainable water infrastructure.
Why did you get into STEM?
I enjoyed the science subjects in high school, particularly maths and physics and consequently these were the subjects I performed well in. As a result, I set out to shape my career based on what I was good at and enjoyed. My path into civil engineering started after interaction with an engineer who was in the field. She inadvertently became my mentor and explained to me how all civil engineering activities greatly impact civilians’ lives. Due to my curiosity, I became fascinated by the “how things come to be” in civil engineering which I had previously taken for granted. I grew to know there were processes to get water out of my tap and to make a building stand and I desired to be an active participant in those processes. The diversity and marketability of the field were a bonus.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My career is a highlight as despite the challenges I have encountered I have grown to be a confident engineer, public speaker and mentor. I am happy to inspire the next generation of women in STEM and envision myself as a breaker of gender barriers.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
I found studying in the field of civil engineering intimidating as women were the minority in a male-dominated field and I reached a point where I questioned whether I had made the right career choice. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to intern in organisations where several ladies were working in engineering and IT. I was encouraged and pursued my education to completion as I realised that although women in STEM were not outrightly visible, there are numerous women working in the field and the number is growing.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
A key aspect for women is that they develop their vision, a picture of where they want to be in 5 years and develop goals towards achieving that vision. The sky and beyond is the limit. Secondly, it’s important to seek help. Identify mentors in STEM, read more about women in STEM and reach out to them where possible. Reading and reaching out helps one realise that some of the challenges they are experiencing are like another woman’s experience and they are exposed to a possible solution.