The University of Queensland is celebrating the graduation of a record number of female engineering students last semester with women making up 35 per cent of all graduates—more than double the national average of 17 per cent.
UQ’s engineering cohort has seen significant growth in female graduate numbers since 2012, when they numbered 21 per cent, and the national average was 15 per cent.
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, (EAIT) Executive Dean, Professor Simon Biggs said the increase in female graduates highlights UQ’s leadership in shaping a more inclusive and equitable engineering industry, bolstered by the very successful Women in Engineering (WE) program which has been running for four years.
“The Women in Engineering program was established at UQ as a university-led, industry-funded initiative to address the gender disparity in engineering at both the tertiary and industry levels, and the results so far speak volumes for the value of the program.” said Professor Biggs.
“UQ also recently hosted the first joint university workshop to collaborate and share best practice for recruiting females into engineering.
More than 30 representatives from 18 universities across Australia, New Zealand and the US state of Colorado attended the event with the long-term objective to see female participation in engineering increase collectively across Australia.
“We don’t just want to see gender diversity improve in engineering at UQ, we want to see broad change across the industry in Australia and globally.”
Women currently account for less than 13 per cent of the engineering workforce in Australia, and industries that employ engineers are missing out on the benefits that diversity brings to technically-grounded problem solving.
EAIT faculty is leading from the top with a record increase in female academic appointments in engineering in 2016, especially in the area of chemical engineering. A popular area of study for female students, chemical engineering is an exemplar of female participation with women making up over 40 per cent of the graduating cohort this semester.
Second-year chemical and environmental engineering student Geethu George says young women need strong female role models when setting out in engineering careers.
“Being in contact with female academics in my field of study encourages me to keep moving forward with my decision to pursue engineering,” Ms George said.
“Having women in these senior positions and watching them achieve success is essential to increasing female participation in engineering.”