UQ aims to right industry imbalance

THE University of Queensland wants to become Australia’s university of choice for women in engineering and has entered into a major partnership to bring this to pass.

Staff Reporter
UQ aims to right industry imbalance

The partnership between the university, Rio Tinto, the Australian Power Institute and the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association aims to address the shortage of female students enrolling in engineering programs at UQ through the creation of a position dedicated to improving this gender imbalance.

Its women in engineering development and communications manager will focus on recruiting, supporting and recognising women in engineering.

UQ faculty of engineering, architecture and information technology executive dean Professor Graham Schaffer said the university and the engineering profession would benefit from a more equitable gender balance of qualified engineers.

“Quality is enhanced by diversity,” he said.

Rio Tinto, API and APPEA have each invested $250,000 over five years for the program.

APPEA chief operating officer eastern region Rick Wilkinson said the proportion of degree qualified female engineers in the Australian labour force last year was just 12.7%.

“That needs to rise,” he said.

“Female engineers are an essential part of any technical team if it is to have the full depth required to compete in today’s globally competitive markets.”

The national average for female students starting engineering courses is 12-14%. UQ is slightly bucking that trend with 19-20% of females in its first-year engineering cohort.

“Although UQ is already above the national average for undergraduate female engineering enrolments, we know that we are not world’s best practise and that there is still much to be done,” Schaffer said.

“Our data shows female students, on average, have higher retention rates once they have commenced their engineering degrees in comparison to their male peers.

“The challenge we face as an educational institution is therefore the recruitment of women into engineering programs, not retention.”

Rio Tinto Energy vice president human resources Rosemary Fagen said diversity and inclusion were great attributes to pursue in any organisation.

“Rio Tinto has a global target to increase the number of female professional engineers across the group,” she said.

“We look forward to seeing improvement in the gender balance of qualified engineers as a result of this initiative with UQ.”


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