Keneilwe Hlahane

I am an avid reader and I get most of the best advice from books. I love the quote by Helen Hayes — “The expert at anything was once a beginner”. Allow yourself to learn, be curious, and ask questions when you don’t understand.

Country of origin

South Africa

Which company do you work for?

South African Environmental Observation Network

What is your specific area of specialisation?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing

How long have you been in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields?

I have been working as a researcher for 5 years.

As a woman in a male dominated industry, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

I noticed that as a black female in the STEM fields, our research work is undermined on the basis of our gender and race. I had to work twice as hard for my voice to be heard and for my work to be taken seriously. I had to learn to build my self-confidence and did not allow any of these challenges to block my way towards achieving my goals.

What inspired you to join this industry?

Growing up, science was one of my favourite subjects at school and I always enjoyed watching TV shows like 50/50 and the National Geographic channel. I did not know anything about Geographic information Systems (GIS), studying Geology exposed me to the GIS field which later became my interest and career. I have always been a curious person, and this helped me to fall in love with research. GIS is a highly technical field and I enjoy the technological aspect of my job the most, from learning different programming languages, building models and analysing satellite data.

What changes, if any, have you seen in your field with regards to women in your field?

I have noticed there are more females taking GIS as a career. I still hope to see more women occupying managerial positions within the sector.

How can we attract more women to consider a career in the STEM fields?

The scientific community needs to expose young people to careers in STEM. A lot of young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds are not aware of careers in the STEM fields. We need to share this knowledge with high school and university students and expose them to available opportunities.

If you were to advise other young women starting their careers in the tech or within the STEM fields, what is the one thing you would say to them?

I am an avid reader and I get some of the best advice from books. I love the quote by Helen Hayes — “The expert at anything was once a beginner”. Allow yourself to learn, be curious, and ask questions when you don’t understand.

When not working, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time outdoors in nature, botanical gardens and the beach are my favourite places to visit .

Nominate yourself, a friend, colleague or inspiring women in the technology and STEM fields to have their story featured. Let’s collectively join and create a movement of women leaders in the industry. Nominate with a social media handle in the comments of our social post and we will get in touch so we can inspire more women.