Breaking down the barriers to gender equality
What do we want? Diversity in classrooms! When do we want it? Now!
Improving gender equity
UTS is taking action to address the long-standing wide gender disparity in students applying for undergraduate courses in both engineering and IT.
From now, women applying for all undergraduate degrees in the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) will receive 10 adjustment points on their Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). Women applying for a construction project management degree in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building (DAB) will also receive 10 adjustment points.
“A generation of initiatives to support greater female participation in these key industries of the future has seen minor progress,” said Arti Agarwal, Director UTS Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT).
“We need our education institutions to encourage girls and women at all levels, and create a stronger ‘pipeline’ to acquire the skills and knowledge to build successful careers in dynamic areas.”
The move is intended to encourage more women to consider degrees and careers in professions that have been male dominated for decades. UTS sought and secured approval by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board to add the adjustment points.
We need our education institutions to encourage girls and women to acquire the skills and knowledge to build successful careers in dynamic areas.
Director, Women in Engineering and IT, UTS
Have a look at the statistics:
- 13% of the engineering workforce is female
- 28% of IT industry roles are women
- 11% of the building and construction workforce is female
The gender imbalance in these professions is more stark when it’s considered that women make up 58% of all Australian undergraduate students.
Why the adjustment?
Research shows that organisations with gender diverse leadership teams and boards are more successful than those with less diversity, and that women enable teams to perform more effectively, including in innovation-oriented businesses.
Within the STEM sector itself, organisations are setting targets to influence change in the representation of women in STEM fields. The Australian Academic of Science STEM Decadal Plan calls for systemic and sustained change to address “current under-representation and under-utilisation of women and the threat this poses to Australia’s prosperity”. The Plan says that significant gains at every stage of the STEM pipeline will require “bold” action by all stakeholders, including the education sector.
“We need to be disruptive – what we have been doing is not working,” said Justine Romanics, National Manager for Professional Diversity and STEM at Engineers Australia.
“It’s time to flick the switch. We need to show the benefits that greater diversity will create for everyone – for individuals, for teams, for organisations, for the profession.”
Support for students
Lauded as one of the most inclusive STEM networks in Australia, the UTS Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT) program fosters a network of students and educators in engineering, IT and the broader technology sector. WiEIT offers weekly drop-in sessions for students, social and networking events and a mentoring program pairing students with industry experts.
“UTS is creating an environment for young women to study for fulfilling careers by increasing access to study options, providing resources during their studies with access to professional mentors, and to peer and industry networks for support and advice as they challenge the current gender imbalances,” said WiEIT Director Arti Agarwal.
Fifth year Civil and Environmental Engineering student, Jessica Massih, says supporting young women into tertiary studies, and while they are studying, is key to believing they have a role in theses industries.
“Once you are at uni, you have to do the same subjects, same assignments, and work just as hard to get good grades and opportunities. Getting there is just the start,” she said.
Gavan Huang is a fifth year student in Mechanical Engineering, a founder of the UTS Professional Aeronautics and Astronautics Society (PAAS) and advisor to UTS Rocketry.
“Innovation is a huge element in all of the teams I work with – either in class or extracurricular activities. Great teams need people to contribute different ideas, experiences and knowledge, so the more gender diversity we can build into teams the more innovation we can foster, and deliver in our project outcomes,” he said.
Will women be welcomed into the workforce?
Industry groups say UTS’s move towards gender parity in engineering, IT and construction studies will have a real impact on addressing skill shortages, particularly in STEM-related professions.
“One of the key messages we hear from our industry partners is the importance of expanding the recruitment base for Construction Project Managers – not only to ensure that the industry reflects the diversity of Australian society, but also to ensure project managers bring a wide range of skills and experiences to construction in the 21st century,” said Professor Heather MacDonald, head of the UTS School of Built Environment.
For more information, see UTS ATAR adjustment: Frequently Asked Questions