WomEng

WomEng: Investing in girls in STEM and empowering women through engineering & education

Cape Town, South AfricaCape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Witbank, Polowane, East London, South Africa
Year Founded:
2006
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

WomEng invests and develops girls and women in the engineering industry to shift the gender parity of the sector. It creates inclusive environments and provides girls and women with the key skills to thrive in the engineering industry.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if more women designed the world we lived in and engineered our societies we may get to see more inclusive, sustainable & equitable communities
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

A large component of the SDG's are entwined with the need for engineering - from energy, to water & sanitation to food security, engineering is intrinsic in all these activities. However, women and girls have traditionally been excluded from the sector which plays a vital role for developing societies. The number of women engineers in Africa is low, generally below 10%. Even in developed countries its 20%. WomEng goal is achieving gender equality

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

WomEng addresses the root causes for gender inequality in engineering by providing a pipeline approach as a solution starting at High School. Our GirlEng program gamifies maths and science, provides mentoring & enables girls to learn through play about engineering. Once they apply to a university, WomEng ambassadors provide supportive communities for these girls to thrive. Our Fellowship program teaches entrepreneurship & provides technovation challenge to enable young women to start their own business or have the skills needed to work effectively in engineering. Our industry programs provides leadership develop, lobbying and support to women in the sector to assist with the gender transformation of the sector. We work top down & bottom up

Awards

Global Finalist for the Qatar WISE Awards for Innovation in Education, African Union Award for best example of Technical & Vocational Training in Africa, Finalist for Airbus Diversity Awards, Top NGO in South Africa
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

WomEng works on a macro level where we change the lives of 4000 girls per year through the GirlEng program providing mentoring, support and information on engineering. On a microlevel, we have inspired girls to study engineering and have now graduated such as Siyasanga, who attended a GirlEng program in Johannesburg and was inspired to study engineering. She had a great mentor and graduated in 2014 with her undergraduate degree and is now doing her masters while giving back through the GirlEng team. We have been able to shift enrollment rates for girls to 40% of engineering classes and we are supporting 4 female owned engineering ideas that came out of the technovation challenge. We are getting to gender parity & supporting innovation

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In the last 10 years, WomEng has worked with over 10 000 girls at various levels of the engineering pipeline. These girls have gone on to become engineers and develop our country. WomEng currently runs programs across South Africa and in 2014 launched programs in Kenya. In 2016, we will launch our #1millionGirlsinSTEM to develop and educate 1 million girls in Africa through STEM education. The rise of the African continent is dependent on the engineering skills needed to provide energy, water, health, infrastructure and community development and its our girls and women who will lead that development.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

WomEng is on an aggressive expansion strategy to operate in 10 countries in the next 10 years. The model is built taround 3 key factors - a local team working on programs on the ground, local partners, and sustainable solutions which are tailor-made in each region. The barrier to entry for women and the lack of gender equality in each region is different and as such we need to tailor every solution. To reach 1 million girls, we need to work with 100 000 girls in each of our 10 countries. We already havy local champions for Nigeria, Tanzania, Mauritius, Rwanda and working to build teams
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Currently our income is through partnerships with engineering industry who directly draw top female engineers through the program as a partnership fee. We are currently developing and will launch an e-learning and e-lancing platform for women to be included in the engineering economy remotely and to develop their skills further. This will be income generating platforms to supplement our income from partnerships.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are currently the only organisation to do a comprehensive approach along a skills pipelines, especially focussed on engineering. There are a large number of organisations teaching girls to code, which is only part of the solution as hardware and software are needed. The only other organisation would be the society of women engineers in the US, but they focus on membership at a senior level and only in the US. Our approach has a broad amount of localisation, understanding gender dynamics and providing holistic solutions to create gender parity in engineering
Team

Founding Story

WomEng has had a number of iterations. It was founded as SAWomEng by female engineering students who were not just a minority but ffaced discrimination and wanted to prepare female engineering students for a harsh engineering environment that was slow to transform. It then evloved as the did, with a bigger team, and more students and young women engineers wanting to create a better engineering environment, where there were more women. The GirlEng program was born to change the mindset about girls studying engineering and to inspire them to be able to fulfill a dream of being an engineer. 2 years ago, SAWomEng then became WomEng to reflect the global nature of the solution

Team

WomEng has a 5 member fiduciary board who meets annually but is in constant contact on an individual basis. They are all engineers who work in various industries. The co-founders tag-team responsibilities on partnerships and growth (Naadiya & Hema) are both engineers with MSc degrees and do WomEng full time. Our executive heads are all engineers who are volunteers. They are responsible for the regional teams comprising of volunteers who are engineering students and young professionals. They coordinate close to 100 volunteers. We have a small full time operations team - Busi (Physicist) is responsible for operations and Faith manages the graphics and creative portfolio. Our Kenya team comprise of an executive leadership team on a volunteer basis who each have a portfolio and are all engineering students or young professionals. We hope to hire full time staff in 2016 in Kenya to anchor East Africa. As we grow, there is a need to evolve the teams, and build a bigger core full time staff compliment. The success of WomEng has been to use hybrid models of volunteer and full time staff to successfully run programs with volunteers bringing their time and passion and providing them an outlet to give back to the next generation of future engineers.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka Email

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder WomEng

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

WomEng has dominated my realm over the last 10 years, however I have been part of another skills development start-up called JourneyMap which provides consulting services to industry around gender parity, which we have incorporated in WomHub which is a startup to house all my activities in gender parity. I founded a small sustainable fashion company called NaadiyaM which localised manufacting. Unfortunately, I misread the market, and the start-up didn't survive, but the lessons learn have.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

WomEng has a group of mentors beyond our board who we work with to advise us on growth. We are currently talking to UNESCO who we have had a small collaboration with in the past. We are working with UN Women to advance women in engineering and extractives in Africa and should finalise that partnership next year.