Women in Engineering & IT are leading the diversity agenda
From helping local communities and policy-makers grapple with climate change to bringing education to a community of Hazara refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, our university community has been a constant driver of social change within and beyond the boundaries of UTS.
This includes the work of the UTS Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT) team, who are leading the diversity agenda. WiEIT and the 65+ strong team of female volunteers are social change agents, driving the conversation for female engagement in industry and inspiring primary and high-school girls to choose careers in STEM.
Breaking barriers in industry
According to Engineers Australia, women currently make up 13% of the engineering workforce, a statistic that’s been growing slowly for decades. To help break this cycle, the UTS Women in Engineering and IT team have increased their scope by adding new programs focussed on primary school engagement, teacher training, and low SES school outreach.
The Lucy Mentoring Program is one example of a current WiEIT program that connects current female students with executive mentors in industry. Students in second year and beyond are paired with mentors from leading Australian companies like Atlassian, Qantas, and Woolworths plus top consulting firms Accenture, Deloitte and PWC.
“The Lucy Mentoring Program has been running in UTS for 14 years and is the only program in NSW open to female engineering and IT students. The program grew by 50% in 2018, matching 95 current female students with 95 execs in industry,” says Arti Agrawal, WiEIT Director.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our current female engineering and IT students to get on-the-job experience and build their professional networks, whilst encouraging our industry partners to act as diversity ambassadors within their organisation”, she says.
The Lucy Mentoring Program is also open to male mentors who play a critical role in advancing diversity across industry. According to the Diversity Council of Australia report on ‘Engaging Men on Gender Equality’, men are a part of the diversity problem but are also crucial to the solution.
Quoting recent research, Arti says that “male mentors, by default of their standing in industry, can offer broader networks for our female students to connect with, which can be an advantage to graduates. Research also shows that female students can often engage deeper with mentoring where they offer something back when paired with a female mentor. Every year we aim to ensure we have that balance.”
The national drive to increase diversity in engineering and IT, and STEM more broadly, is underway with Universities playing a key role in advancing change. The shift is not going un-noticed by current students at UTS, who in fact highlight that the stereotypes lie with people outside of the industry.
“The truth is, personally we have been fortunate enough to avoid the stigma. This is not to say women in the industry no longer face any prejudice, but our experiences have been mostly positive,” says Sophia, a current Civil Engineering student.
“Often times, the instances where this doesn't ring true is when people from outside of the industry see us with our male counterparts and question our legitimacy as female engineers. This is the same group of male friends who’ve never once questioned our ability or place in this field.”
According to Jessica, a fourth year engineering student, women should feel empowered to take lead roles in projects.
“Engineering gives people the opportunity to solve problems that have a real-world impact and improve our quality of life. Traditionally, women have taken on supporting roles in the workplace, but we don't see why they shouldn't feel empowered to take the lead,” says Jessica.
The UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT and our industry partners are actively recruiting budding engineering and IT students via the WiEIT Scholarship Program. The cooperative education program is identifying high achieving female students in high-school are have a passion and interest to pursue a career in Engineering & IT. The 4-year scholarships are valued at $66,000 and includes three industry work placements.