According to WomEng.org, women are still grossly under-represented in the engineering industry with the amount of female engineering graduates below 20% in many countries.
And, according to the Mail and Guardian, in 2013 the Engineering Council of South Africa said that nearly 11% of their registered members were female, but professional female engineers only came to about four percent.
This piece on eNCA by John Butler-Adam, also talks about the stunning under representation of women in the engineering sector, especially in Africa.
So when we were granted the opportunity to speak to Monica Luscay Kyzer, a Service Advisor at Maserati South Africa’s Cape Town dealership, about why she decided to study engineering, and what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated field, we jumped at the chance to talk to her.
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What made you want to study mechanical engineering?
When I was given advice from my mother, her wise words always played in my mind while I was growing up. I read about ‘fitting and turning’, ‘boiler making’ then mechanical engineering.
I thought that in order for me to know about a car, I need to know the mechanics, how it’s being built and the basics of where it all begins.
It was also easy to enroll in the field at a technical school which afforded me the opportunity to study mechanical engineering.
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What exactly is the role of a service advisor?
We liaise between the customer and the technicians in the workshop. We work with customers to determine and diagnose the problem of the vehicle, hence to the best of our ability provide technicians with accurate work required.
What’s it like being the only female service advisor at your company?
I love meeting and greeting our clients, it’s nice to see them and hear their stories and just listen to them. Adding to the personal touch and assuring them their vehicles are in good hands.
What were the challenges of breaking into a male dominated industry? And what were some of the rewards?
I encountered many turf wars from fellow male workers when I started out in the trade, but I managed to stand my ground in this traditionally male dominated industry.
Sometimes when I feel lonely, I call my buddy, Rain, up at our Johannesburg branch then we just talk ‘service advisor talk’ and laugh. It’s fun, we are a good team. We work hand-in-hand and each one complements the other.
What advice do you have for women who are struggling to make it in their respective industries?
My advice to those who are struggling to make it in their respective industry is to be true to themselves. If you do something, do it to the best of your ability and not that of your male counterparts.
Remember you’re still female, you chose your industry because you believed in yourself.
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What do you think every woman should have in her car at all times?
An owner’s manual and for safety’s sake, pepper spray and/or a Taser. All vehicles already have the basic break-down emergency-kits, supplies and emergency contact details.
Female drivers need to ensure that they have the recommended fitted kits. Knowledge of using the equipment is also critical.
Who do you look up to and why?
There have been many from whom I have had the opportunity to learn. They have given me valuable knowledge and have always been eager to share their knowledge, this I treasure and value as it has benefited me in my life’s journey.
There are so many examples of mentors and influencers in my life, but my main influencers would have to be my parents. They instilled a sound work ethic in me; when I was much younger they would always tell me to complete my work before I could go and play.
They would say: “If you do something the first time, do it right, so that you do not have to go back and re-do it”.
While I was studying though, most of my lecturers gave me sound advice – for example, my diesel and petrol Lecturer, Mr Swart, used to stay after hours (either early before class or after class) and he would give me extra lessons.
It also seemed to me that he was harder on me in class – I didn’t see it at the time, but I guess he knew what I was capable of.
Then when I started working, my senior technician, ‘Jaggies’ (as we called him), taught me a lot of the advanced, practical knowledge – everything that he had learnt over the years, he passed on to me and I am grateful for that.