11 February is a day that is commemorated internationally by the United Nations to celebrate women who hold office in the field of science and encourage girls to follow in their footsteps and enter careers in this challenging but rewarding field.
Dr Beverley Sukhdeo, newly appointed Vice President Manufacturing, R&D and Engineering for Sappi Southern Africa, with her Bachelor of Science qualification in Chemistry, coupled with her Doctorate in Business Administration is ideally positioned to lead from the front in taking Sappi Southern African to new heights by helping us build a thriving world for all by unlocking the power of trees, using the power of science. As the first woman in Sappi to hold this position, Bev’s advice to other women who may be daunted by the challenge of entering this typically male-dominated field is to “not let other people’s opinions define your ability to contribute to the science arena.”
Dr Tracy Wessels, General Manager: Group Sustainability and Investor Relations has a solid scientific background in understanding the full potential for extracting the most value from the pulp that we produce and the myriad applications it is used for. Her PhD in Organic Chemistry set her on the path for her extensive career at Sappi which started off in R&D. She comments that her scientific background has taught her to approach all challenges with a solutions-driven mindset, using innovative thinking to achieve her goals.
Also bringing her scientific knowledge to bear in the crucial journey of making sure that everything we do is sustainable, is Krelyne Andrew, General Manager Sustainability Sappi Verve. Armed with her BSc Hons and postgraduate management diploma, she says her science background has enabled a career path that involves research, development and innovative thinking to ensure that the sustainability footprint of Sappi’s dissolving pulp product, produced in South Africa and North America is competitive and relevant for the dynamically changing markets that we serve.
Extracting the value from trees can only be done if the trees are in excellent health and sustained in the best possible environment, and in accordance with Sappi’s support of the UN’s SDGs—particularly one which accelerates progress towards the achievement of SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). This task is ably managed by Hlengiwe Ndlovu, Divisional Environmental Manager for Sappi Forests, where her BSc Forestry degree, combined with her MSc Hydrology stands her in perfect stead to deliver on this promise of sustainable forest management.
Sappi has a wealth of experience to draw on from its team of specialist scientists employed at its Technical Excellence Centre at its Saiccor Mill, the Technical Research & Development facility at its Technology Centre in Pretoria (Tshwane), and its Forestry Research & Development Centre based at the Sappi Shaw Research Centre in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and all along the manufacturing chain in its array of engineers, environmentalists, papermakers and technicians. Many of them are women, who we celebrate here for the diversity and depth of experience that makes up our teams.
With only around 30 per cent of all female students worldwide selecting STEM-related fields in higher education, with particularly low enrollment in natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and in engineering and manufacturing (8%), it is with pride that Sappi can report on its impressive female workforce who fill these roles, in what has often been classified as a male-dominated environment.
As Sappi continues to develop new processes and explore the technology which extracts more value from each tree to support our business strategy of pursuing a circular economy, we pay tribute to our Women in Science who help make this possible.
See more here about some of the women at Sappi who have made their love for science a career choice.
With progress in science, technology and innovation (STI) recognised as being essential in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development goals by 2030, coupled with the understanding that gender equality is vital to achieve this, Sappi supports the UN’s focus on overcoming gender bias and stereotypes about encouraging girls and women to pursue science-related careers. Sappi has long been at the forefront of promoting science and technology as careers for youths in their communities, through supporting programmes like PROTEC (Programme for Technological Careers) for the last 30 years, with thousands of boys and girls benefiting from the additional focus on STEM subjects and shaping their careers in science and technology.