Fix, build, solve: Engaging girls with careers in engineering
A new report commissioned by the Engineering for Australia Taskforce and the Women in STEM Ambassador highlights the need to build engineering capability in our children and educate the public about the impact of engineering on everyone's lives
Engineering is one of the fastest growing occupations in Australia, but stereotypes and male-dominated views of engineering persist and women still only make up less than 15 per cent of enrolments in engineering bachelor degrees in Australia.
The engineering and education professions need to work together to change the perception of engineering careers and create an ‘engineering identity’ that highlights its social impact. For example, connecting how engineering contributes to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and being more explicit about engaging with engineering practices within the school curriculum, could attract more girls to engineering and improve gender parity in the profession.
After undertaking a systematic review of the existing research and literature on intervention programs to recruit girls with STEM disciplines, we propose a socio-ecological model of girls’ engagement, which recognises that an individual’s learning is impacted by both her immediate learning community (teachers, peers, family, community, learning environments and tools) as well as the socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economic contexts in which learning takes place.
We recommend the following three actions:
1. Evaluate existing interventions to map the landscape
There is limited longitudinal data available and a subsequent gap in our understanding of the long-term impact of existing interventions. An evaluation framework needs to include all stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, education leaders and community members.
2. Create an inclusive vision for STEM and engineering
Communication, curriculum, work practices and mentoring can be used to address persistent stereotypes around STEM and engineering. A successful strategy used in other professions is to identify the non-academic qualities, such as interpersonal skills and empathy, that are essential components of work in engineering, as well as the academic requirements.
3. Work with education to create a STEM and engineering identity in schools
Engineering needs to be explicit when it is experienced within the school curriculum. There needs to be positive educational experiences where engineering is the focus to overcome the assumption that, if teachers attend to science and maths, engineering will look after itself. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide opportunities to discuss broader ideas of what it means to ‘fix’, ‘build’ and ‘solve’.
Download and read the full report.
Download the media release.
The Engineering for Australia Taskforce is a group of representatives from university engineering faculties, engineering industry and professional bodies. The purpose of the Taskforce is to collaborate on actions to improve diversity in engineering study and professions. Members of the Taskforce include representatives from:
- Monash University Engineering
- UNSW Engineering
- ANU Engineering and Computer Science
- UTS Engineering and IT
- RMIT Engineering
- University of Adelaide
- Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering
- Engineers Australia
- Department of Treasury and Finance Victoria
- Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
- Cicada Innovations
- Gender Matters
If you would like further information about the Engineering for Australia Taskforce, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Who partnered with us:
This report was commissioned by the Engineering for Australia Taskforce. The authors acknowledge the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador (an Australian Government Initiative), Monash University, the Australian National University, UNSW Sydney, and the University of Technology, Sydney, who provided funding for this project.
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