It all started with a dream – Fatima wanted to become an engineer. “I can’t pinpoint why exactly I wanted to be an engineer,” she says, looking back. The groundwork was laid by her innate talent, an interest in technology, the importance of education in her family and an upbringing that reinforced the idea she could be anything she wanted to be.
While the goal was clear, the journey was anything but smooth. When Fatima wanted to register for a degree in engineering, she was initially turned away – “numerus clausus” being the first hurdle.
No thoughts of giving up
Giving up the dream was no option. As a result, Fatima took a diversion via the “Ecole Supérieure de Technologie” in Casablanca in Morocco. Here, Fatima studied for two years and completed her technical training before studying engineering for a further three years. In 2013, her dream became reality and she was finally presented with her diploma as an engineer.
Today, Fatima Makhada is 31 years old and a married mother of a one-year-old daughter, and works as Technical sales engineer at Geberit in Morocco. For Fatima her career path is nothing out of the ordinary: “I have never doubted that this profession is the right one for me. This is my decision and my responsibility.”
Advising men when wearing a headscarf?
This all sounds so easy, natural and unproblematic. Is it really like this in reality? “No, of course not,” says Fatima with a smile. Only around 10 to 15 per cent of the students at her university were women, and the majority of them chose to go into management or HR. She was often the only woman present at the courses in the technical subjects: “You have to block this out and have the discipline to focus on your own goals.”
This is something she is still doing today, even though she now has a female colleague in her team. Nonetheless, a Muslim woman in a headscarf working as sales engineer is still something out of the ordinary, as Fatima confirms: “I have seen some puzzled looks in my time.” However, this is where Fatima’s skills come to the fore – breaking down prejudices, giving professional advice, communicating clearly and showing an interest in the requirements of her customers. “After five minutes, everyone has forgotten that they are discussing technical details with a woman in a headscarf.”