We need more women in engineering, here’s why reaching them early is key

You can't be what you can't see! At Careers with STEM, we showcase women in STEM role models in every edition, such as engineering grads Astrid Jonelynas, Briana Wade and Jennifer May featured in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2018. Photo: Lauren Trompp.

A new report released today has sounded the alarm: we need more girls in STEM, and teachers and early educators are a key part of the solution.

The Engineering for Australia Taskforce has released a new report urging better representation across the genders in Australia’s engineering workforce. The current situtation is pretty dire: while women make up 47% of employed people in Australia, they represent just 11.2% of working engineers.

And improving the balance is a good thing not just for women and girls, but for society as a whole.

Related: Visit our women in STEM hub

“Problem-solving is fundamental to engineering. More perspectives equal better solutions, new ideas, and better financial results,” says the Australian Government Women in STEM Ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith.

“By increasing the number of women in engineering, not only will we strengthen Australia’s economy, but we will also increase our capacity to address global challenges such as climate change and the transition to a carbon-neutral future.”

Early education is key

The report points to recent research that children begin to develop their understanding of engineering around the same time they develop ideas and stereotypes about gender – as young as six years old!

“There is a critical window in early childhood education, as girls form their identity and ideas about what they’re capable of.  We must all work together – industry, government and education – to ensure girls’ interest in engineering is recognised and nurtured,” says Elizabeth Croft, Monash University Dean of Engineering.

The report outlines a number of actions it recommends for educators, industry and government to encourage girls to participate equally in STEM, to promote women as STEM role models and to create more inclusive learning environments.

Some of the actions recommended include:

  • Professional development for teachers, to improve knowledge and understanding of engineering;
  • Teach engineering as a distinct learning area, separate to maths and science;
  • More inclusive and respectful engineering workplace culture;
  • Industry partnerships with education programs;
  • Industry outreach activities;
  • Targeted and sustainable government funding of evidence-based initiatives.

The full report, published by Engineers Australia, is available online here.

Established in 2019, the Engineering for Australia Taskforce is a group dedicated to increasing women’s participation in engineering in Australia.

Looking for resources to inspire the next generation of women in engineering? We’ve got you covered!

 

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.

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