Taskforce says action needed to make STEM more inclusive

With the manufacturing sector suffering from a skills shortage, attracting a more diverse workforce is more important than ever before. The new Engineering for Australia Taskforce has released a report claiming more action is needed to bridge the gender divide in STEM.

The report explores the factors which affect girls’ participation in STEM and engineering and examines 115 international peer-reviewed research articles to identify key considerations when creating programs to attract girls to engineering.

Founded by the deans of engineering at UNSW Sydney, Monash University and Australian National University (ANU), the taskforce aims to address the gender disparity among applicants for university engineering programs

Dean of engineering at UNSW Mark Hoffman said that the engineering profession needed to be more reflective of Australian society.

“Engineering needs the profession’s makeup to reflect the society it serves, and that means we need more women gaining confidence at school to join engineering programs at university,” Hoffman said.

Among the actions the report proposes to improve female engagement with engineering is the creation of a more diverse and inclusive STEM and engineering identity in schools by making engineering activities prominent, positive and personally and socially relevant.

“Engineering skills underpin the functioning of our societies and economies, and are critical to building a sustainable future. However, fewer than 10 per cent of engineers in Australia are women,” said Professor Elanor Huntington, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at ANU.

“Not only does that mean that women are missing out on designing the future, but it also means that engineering challenges are being tackled from a narrow set of perspectives. By diversifying our engineering workforce, we will strengthen Australia’s economy and strengthen our ability to face the global challenges presented by a changing climate, food and water scarcity and globalisation.”