Mampho Maoyi: A rock engineer breaking boundaries

Posted on February 26, 2020

In a  profession where only 14% of the participants are female*, the University of Pretoria’s Mampho Maoyi (MM) has broken even more boundaries to become the first black African woman to be appointed as a lecturer in the Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology Division, which is housed in the Department of Geology. In this interview, Maoyi explains what her responsibilities in her role are and shares her thoughts on the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Tukkievaria (TV): Where are you originally from and what prompted you to pursue a career in geology?

MM: I am from Randfontein, which is situated in the west of Johannesburg. Randfontein is a mining town and growing up in the area sparked my interest in geology. It was during this time that I decided that I wanted to become a rock engineer.

TV: What does your role entail?

MM: One of my responsibilities is to lecture postgraduates and undergraduates. At postgraduate level, I will be lecturing in rock engineering, which is an honours module. I will also serve as a supervisor for the honours students as they work towards completing their research projects. At undergraduate level, I will be lecturing in engineering geology and rock mechanics, alongside my colleagues. Moreover, I am also expected to conduct research and I am currently enrolled for my doctoral studies.

TV: What are your research interests and what project are you currently working on?

MM: I am currently involved in a project which deals with complex vadose zone hydrology and anthropogenic activities. The project is funded by the South African Water Research Commission. This research project aims to contribute towards solving industry-related problems which include the shear strength of defects under changing moisture conditions, seepage through unsaturated rock mass, groundwater vulnerability, recharge, and possible mitigation methods for drainage of rock slopes and excavations.

TV: Why is your field of study important, particularly in a South African context?

MM: South Africa is rich in minerals, and as such, engineering geologists or geologists are needed for resource estimation, grade control, strata control, etc. From a geotechnical engineering, construction and/or hydrology perspective, geotechnical investigations are always needed before projects such as building constructions, mine expansions, etc. are commissioned.

TV: Are there any women in the fields of STEM that you look up to and why?

MM: A person such as Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town) is a source of inspiration for me to pursue an academic career as a woman.

TV: Considering the fact that the industry that you serve in is male-dominated, what do you think can be done to encourage young women, like yourself, to pursue a career in the fields of STEM?

MM: Our education system should encourage learners to excel in mathematics and science at a basic level and, most importantly, it should be designed in such a way that it appeals to learners ranging from the foundation phase (Grade 1 to 3) all the way up to the further education and training phase (Grade 10 to 12). On the other hand, there are equal opportunities available nowadays. Young women have the power to soar to heights never imagined before and advance their ambitions. Programmes such as career expos should also put women at the forefront of their marketing strategies, so that it is easier for a student to be able to imagine themselves in a particular role.

TV: If there is one lesson that you could ensure that the students that you teach will never forget, what would it be?

MM: “Take the opportunities before you, ensure you work hard and succeed”.

* The Global Gender Gap Report 2020

Kaya Nocanda

- Author Kaya Nocanda

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