A new independent national taskforce is tackling the significant deficit in the numbers of women studying engineering.

The Engineering for Australia Taskforce has launched a report which identifies a need to change the perception of engineering in society and schools if gender diversity in engineering is to improve.

The Engineering for Australia Taskforce was created by the Deans of Engineering at Monash University, the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) to address the gender disparity in applicants for university engineering programs by tackling the barriers to female participation in engineering.

The Taskforce’s first action was to commission a report, titled ‘Barriers to participation in engineering and the value of interventions to improve diversity’, authored by Professor Deborah Corrigan and Dr Kathleen Aikens from Monash University.

The Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, says: “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.”

The report explores the factors which affect girls’ participation in STEM and engineering and looks at 115 international peer-reviewed research articles to identify key considerations when creating programs to attract girls to engineering.

The report recommends three 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
  • Evaluate engineering intervention programs to map the landscape and build the evidence base of impact