Supporting women in energy: Chaza Chahoud’s story

Chaza and Joanne Pafumi, general manager corporate affairs at CitiPower and Powercor

For Syrian-born, Powercor scholarship-winning student Chaza Chahoud, her first day studying electrical engineering was eye-opening – but not for the reasons she expected.

“I always liked maths and everything related to logic. When I read about electrical and electronic engineering I thought, this is for me. I felt I’d found what I wanted,” Ms Chahoud said.

“I didn’t think about the low number of females when I chose to study it. I didn’t know until I started that in this sector, it can feel like everyone is male. Sometimes I am the only girl in my class.”

Sunday, June 23 marked International Women in Engineering Day, which aims to increase the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the career opportunities available in engineering and related industries such as energy.

According to Engineers Australia data from February, the number of women graduating with degrees in engineering is falling, while only 13 per cent of working engineers in Australia are women.

Related article: AusNet Services awards Women in Power Engineering Scholarships

As second year electrical engineering student Chaza Chahoud demonstrates, the possibilities for female engineers are endless. However, given trends in completions of university engineering courses lag commencements, supporting women during and after study is especially crucial.

Ms Chahoud is among a group of six women to have received a scholarship from electricity distribution businesses, CitiPower and Powercor to support their studies in electrical engineering.

Upon graduation the students can opt to apply for one of the business’ graduate electrical engineering places.

Ms Chaoud migrated with her family from Syria to Australia almost three years ago before enrolling in an electrical engineering degree at RMIT. She was recently awarded with a three-year scholarship from CitiPower and Powercor because of her top-performance.

The scholarship is part of the organisation’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and encourages more women into the field of electrical engineering – something Ms Chaoud agrees is important.

Related article: Women leading the way in Ausgrid’s future workforce

“The lack of female representation doesn’t always directly affect you, but I think somehow it affects your confidence. So, it’s important to support women to gain more confidence,” Ms Chahoud said.

As part of the CitiPower and Powercor scholarship program, worth $10,000 per year for three years, Ms Chaoud is offered 12 weeks of work experience and assigned a business mentor to support her throughout her studies.

Of the work experience Ms Chadoud said: “It’s great to be able to start ‘work’ now, learn beyond the theory, and understand all the environmental, safety factors and real-life considerations that come into play.”

“There are lots of possibilities in this industry which is a bit overwhelming, so having a mentor for two years will also be invaluable.”