Women in South Africa’s power sector : Mamoso May

Mamoso May, CEO of Dor­p­er Wind Farm (© IASS)

Mamoso May is the CEO of Dor­p­er Wind Farm, an Inde­pen­dent Pow­er Pro­duc­er in the East­ern Cape of South Africa with a gen­er­a­tion capac­i­ty of 100 MW. Her suc­cess­ful career path was not lin­ear: When Mamoso was at uni­ver­si­ty , she worked part time as a serv­er in a restau­rant. One of the guests offered her a job in her account­ing busi­ness. From there Mamoso worked her way up and gained more expe­ri­ence until she joined Dor­p­er Wind Farm in 2013.

South Africa’s renew­able ener­gy pro­cure­ment pol­i­cy is unique glob­al­ly in its empha­sis on pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits for com­mu­ni­ties in the vicin­i­ty of projects. Dor­p­er Wind Farm has invest­ed in the neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Molteno and Sterk­stroom in sev­er­al ways. For exam­ple, they fixed win­dows and doors of the local school so that pupils do not freeze in cold win­ters. They also installed toi­lets in the school, run health tests, and sup­port promis­ing stu­dents to enable them to go to uni­ver­si­ty. It is this part of her work that Mamoso val­ues the most.

“Women still need to choose between career and family”

Mamoso’s career came with a price. She wait­ed to have chil­dren because she did not want to be exclud­ed. A for­mer man­ag­er told her that he did not want to employ young women because they might get preg­nant and miss work. She has seen women work dur­ing their mater­ni­ty leave out of fear of being dis­ad­van­taged. With no oblig­a­tion for South African employ­ers to pay women dur­ing mater­ni­ty leave, they have to rely on unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, so they also face finan­cial insecurity.

Uzusiphe Njenga­ban­tu, Intern at Dor­p­er Wind Farm (© Dor­p­er Wind Farm)

In her expe­ri­ence, anoth­er bar­ri­er for women is the way in which their male peers are orga­nized: “Men have clubs. They do not call them that, but they are clubs.” In response, women are now com­ing togeth­er in their own closed cir­cles. But in Mamoso’s view, these sole­ly male, sole­ly female clubs are not the way for­ward: “We need respect­ed men to speak on behalf of women – a male spon­sor that brings women to the table.” In her opin­ion, this approach is more ben­e­fi­cial than the guid­ance of a female men­tor. But to see real change, she empha­sizes that it also takes peo­ple in charge will­ing to employ women in STEM jobs (sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, or math), and men in non-STEM jobs. With tra­di­tion­al STEM careers, there is still the stereo­type that jobs are “too rough for women”. The ener­gy tran­si­tion is cre­at­ing new jobs that require diverse skills, and Mamoso sees lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties for women in the renew­able sec­tor, even those who do not want to work “with their hands”.

Based on her own expe­ri­ence, she gives one rec­om­men­da­tion: “Sur­round your­self with peo­ple that trust you, and find a board that believes in you.” A piece of advice sure­ly eas­i­er said than done, but Mamoso’s career and her cheer­ful charis­ma prove that it is possible.


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This arti­cle is the sum­ma­ry of an inter­view, con­duct­ed in the course of our research on oppor­tu­ni­ties and bar­ri­ers for women in the pow­er sec­tor in South Africa.