The Engineering for Australia Taskforce has today released a report that was commissioned to consider the gender disparity in applicants for university engineering programs and barriers to women and girls’ participation in engineering.
The independent national taskforce was formed by the Deans of Engineering at Monash University, the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and was funded by the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador and engineering faculties from the University of New South Wales, Monash University, the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian National University.
The Barriers to participation in engineering and the value of interventions to improve diversity report, authored by Professor Deborah Corrigan and Dr Kathleen Aikens from Monash University, considered 115 international peer-reviewed research articles to identify key considerations for creating programs to increase the attraction of girls to engineering.
The report recommended three key actions to improve engagement with engineering:
- create an inclusive vision for STEM and engineering to address persistent stereotypes, which invites and welcomes excluded groups to see engineering careers as real possibilities;
- work with the education sector to create a STEM and engineering identity in schools, by making engineering activities prominent, positive and personally and socially relevant; and
- evaluate engineering intervention programs to map the landscape and build the evidence base of impact.
Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of Engineering at UNSW, said: “Engineering needs the profession’s makeup to reflect the society it serves, and that means we need more women .. joining engineering programs at university.”
The Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, said: “engineering skills underpin the functioning of our societies and economies, and are critical in building a sustainable future. However, fewer than 10 per cent of engineers in Australia are women.
“Not only does that mean that women are missing out on designing the future, but it also means that engineering challenges are being tackled from a narrow set of perspectives. By diversifying our engineering workforce, we will strengthen Australia’s economy and strengthen our ability to face the global challenges presented by a changing climate, food and water scarcity and globalisation.”
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton noted that while it was critical that initiatives were put in place to attract more women and girls into engineering, there was also a critical need to address workplace issues that led to women leaving engineering workplaces. “A range of factors contribute to the attrition of women from the engineering workforce”, he said, “and any comprehensive strategy for attracting women to the profession needs to be accompanied by a plan to ensure better retention of women and other under-represented groups in the engineering workforce.”
The full report can be accessed at http://educationfutures.monash.edu/barriers-to-participation-in-engineering.