We must all play a part in creating a more diverse profession, say Engineers Australia National President Trish White and CEO Peter McIntyre.
As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, we are always conscious that engineering is still a male dominated profession. Eighty-four per cent of engineering graduates in Australia are male, and men account for 88 per cent of working engineers.
The essence of engineering is delivering solutions that work for diverse communities of people. How can we deliver the best solutions when we have such little gender diversity in our profession?
It is now recognised that diverse groups deliver better outcomes, not just because of the new ideas and perspectives provided, but also because having a diverse group encourages everyone to better consider the ideas at hand.
How to attract more women into engineering careers is a complex series of problems across the ‘career pipeline’ affected by far ranging influences including culture, education, unconscious bias, work/life balance, and the engineering ‘brand’. So how can we tackle this?
We need to increase the number of women studying STEM subjects. This means improving the engineering ’brand’ to appeal more to girls and women. Engineers Australia’s STEM activities around the country are designed to demonstrate how engineers use creativity and teamwork to solve real-world problems.
Engineers Australia is also working to change the hearts and minds of parents and teachers about the value and diversity of the engineering profession by placing human interest engineering stories in the national media – the recent article in the Weekend Australian magazine about biomedical engineer Jacqui Savage is a good example.
Once we attract more women into engineering careers, we need to stop the pipeline leaking. What can companies do? As always in engineering, data is a good place to start: what is your gender pay gap and your gender split at each job level? The answers can be eye-opening and a strong motivator for taking action.
Culture is a key enabler of change. Many companies are now taking this seriously but there is more to do to achieve truly inclusive workplaces. Leaders must step up to set an example, including having the personal courage to call out inequality and bias when they see it. Lisa Annese, chief executive of the Diversity Council Australia, and Mayuri Nathoo, project manager at Aurecon, talk about these issues later in this edition of create.
Engineers Australia has recently created a role dedicated to working with industry and governments to promote diversity and inclusivity in engineering and we are making personal commitments.
As the new National President, Trish will host Engineers Australia’s three International Women’s Day events, with Naomi Simson as keynote speaker. As CEO, Peter has recently been appointed a Male Champion of Change in STEM.
In support of International Women’s Day, we ask you to use the hashtag #PressforProgress on 8 March.