A new taskforce tackling the shortfall in women studying engineering has launched a report highlighting the need to change the perception of the profession in society and schools.
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.
Its first action was to commission a report; ‘Barriers to participation in engineering and the value of interventions to improve diversity’.
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.
Report co-author Professor Deborah Corrigan, director of Monash University’s Education Futures, said the opportunities to impact the lives of so many through STEM was a real possibility that was not well understood.
“There is widespread, cross-national evidence that girls experience lower levels of confidence and higher levels of anxiety with respect to STEM subjects,” she said.
“We have to first focus on wider STEM interventions as a start, while raising the profile of engineering which is silent within the school curriculum.”
The taskforce agreed that more needs to be done to encourage young people, especially girls, to study STEM subjects in school, drawing upon best practice scenarios from across the world.
The taskforce includes representatives from Monash University, UNSW Sydney, ANU, the University of Technology Sydney, RMIT, the University of Adelaide, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Engineers Australia, the Department of Treasury and Finance Victoria, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Cicada Innovations and Gender Matters, with support from the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador.
The full report can be accessed from the Monash Education Futures website: http://educationfutures.monash.edu/barriers-to-participation-in-engineering.