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What students think about women in engineering

19 December 2018
Undergraduate students studying aeronautical, biomedical and mechanical engineering have shared why they'd like to see more women and girls studying engineering, and why they believe diversity is the key to innovation.
Hiba Abadir is an engineering student and manager of the Sydney Motorsport team.

Hiba Abadir is an engineering student and the manager of the Sydney Motorsports team.

 

Four undergraduate students from across aeronautical, biomedical and mechanical engineering have shared why they want to see more women and girls studying engineering.

They believe diversity is both key to driving innovation and necessary to build infrastructure that is equitable and responsive to an array of human needs.

While women make up a minority in the industry – just 12 percent of practising engineers according to Engineers Australia – the University of Sydney Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology has boosted its proportion of female students studying engineering to over a third, the highest in the country.

The numbers are even greater in biomedical engineering, where female students are now a majority—making up over fifty percent of all undergraduate enrolments.

With the HSC results out and university offers just around the corner, these four students are keen to see these numbers increase even further in 2019's cohort — here's why.

Nely is the president of Sydney University Women in Engineering.

Nely is the president of Sydney University Women in Engineering.

Nely Aurea Psico

Encouraging women and girls to live up to their ability is something biomedical engineering student Nely Aurea Psico lives by. Having been selected as the Sydney University Women in Engineering president for 2019, she hopes to inspire and support women who are interested in or are studying engineering.

It was when Nely was in year eleven that she came across a quote by American writer and women's rights campaigner, Dr Marguerite Rawalt who said, "The world needs scientists and engineers — and if a brain is qualified to do such work, it should be encouraged, not smothered because it is a female brain."

For Nely, this was a pivotal point which encouraged her to pursue her talents and interests in engineering. Now, she'd like to see more high school girls drawn to the discipline.

"I encourage girls and women interested in STEM fields to join because we need a diverse set of minds to solve problems and to drive innovation. Not only do women make fantastic engineers, but engineering is a varied and interesting path to pursue," she said.

"As a society, we need to focus on encouraging and supporting girls to develop these skills from a young age. However, women and girls already excel in analysis and attention to detail, skills which I believe are crucial to engineering!

"If you’re a student who's curious about how things work and enjoy problem solving then engineering is for you. It may sound like an overwhelming task but the good news is university teaches you the skills and tools necessary to solve these complex problems.

"My advice to HSC students is, regardless of the time it takes you, aim to finish or get through university especially if you’re doing engineering. It is challenging but the skills and tools we learn enable us to work in a range of fields and that is what I love the most about it!"

Travis is the Sydney Rocketry Club's team leader of launch operations and recovery.

Travis is the Sydney Rocketry Club's team leader of launch operations and recovery.

Travis Hao Jun Chong

Pursuing engineering is not just about reaching for the stars, but can be a pragmatic and sensible choice for creative and logical thinkers, says aeronautical engineering student, Travis Hao Jun Chong.

"Engineering is not just a good career choice for women, it is a great career choice for any student," he said.

"It is known that engineering is male dominated, but I would love to see women challenge that stereotype and influence more women. I have worked with brilliant women engineers — engineering does not discriminate.

"I would love to see more women in the field of aeronautical engineering and engineering as a whole because I believe they bring different opinions and often better ideas to the table. Having diversity in a workplace and learning environment benefits everyone.

"For any student thinking of pursuing engineering as a career, it is important to be studying mathematics, as it is now a prerequisite. I encourage students to study a higher level of maths as it exposes them to more creative ways in solving problems, which is applicable in engineering.

"Completing physics and chemistry for the HSC has provided me with a further understanding, something beneficial given that  engineering is multifaceted and cross-disciplinary."

Hiba Abadir believes the Formula SAE team is a rewarding pursuit regardless of gender.

Hiba believes the Formula SAE team is a rewarding pursuit regardless of gender. 

Hiba Abadir

Engineering can be a path which not only solves problems for our cities, but can be used to help better the world.

This is something that mechanical engineering student Hiba Abadir has already put into practice during her studies at the university and as team leader of the Sydney Motorsports society.

"Engineering provides a platform to contribute to society by doing meaningful work. It allows for a more efficient future through the use of say, renewable energy or designing prosthetic limbs — the possibilities are endless!" she said.

"The skills obtained from an engineering degree can be used to improve quality of life by providing developing regions with clean water and more affordable energy. Engineering allows you to contribute to the bigger picture.

"Firstly, more trained engineers are needed in order to meet the projected market requirements. If women are opting out of studying engineering, they are locking themselves out of future opportunities and financial security, thereby ensuring the gender pay gap remains intact beyond our current generation.

"Secondly, engineers are constantly involved with products requiring human-centred design. Without a female perspective, products may have an inherently ‘male’ design. An example of this is the first designed air bags: with no females on the team, the air bags were designed and constructed only for the male body, and, when tested with females, were actually found to be unsafe. More women in engineering ensures products and infrastructure are designed for the cross section of society who will actually use them.

"Studying engineering is still a male-dominated field with a masculine culture. However, the current efforts by both the university and by industry to promote females in engineering will ensure your voice is heard, and that you are not disadvantaged by this culture.

"Engineering at the University of Sydney allows for the development of the theoretical knowledge obtained in the classroom. Being involved with the Formula SAE team has allowed me to utilise my mechanical design skills through the design and manufacturing of a Formula Student race car. It is an interesting and challenging discipline which is rewarding regardless of your gender."

Stephen is the Chief Engineer of the Sydney Motorsport team

Stephen is the Chief Engineer of the Sydney Motorsport team.

Stephen Zi-Yang-Huang

Mechanical engineering student Stephen Zi-Yang-Huang believes that diversity will bring out the best ideas within the field of engineering, and that it's the perfect discipline for logical thinkers who enjoy discovering new solutions.

As the chief engineer of the Sydney Motorsports team, he actively encourages diversity and is keen for budding engineers and mechanical enthusiasts from all backgrounds to join in 2019.

"Engineering is really non-biased to anyone who wishes to pursue it. Since its work is very calculated and black and white, all that really matters is if you enjoy designing things and discovering how the technology around you works - if this is you then you will find it wonderful. If you happen to be a woman with these interests, there are now many opportunities (due to shifting norms) both from universities and companies targeting women in engineering.

"More women pursuing engineering will add diversity into this traditionally male dominated scene and by doing so adds the very important female perspective into the industry. This is key in firstly identifying problems faced mainly by women and then designing solutions or improvements for them, such as ergonomics and women-only products.

"Another reason is that it simply doubles the talent pool of engineers which in turn means faster development of technology and solving of problems.

"The beauty of engineering and doing work in this field is that it is rational and logical; as a student preparing for this profession, we are taught whatever decisions and designs we embark on need to be justified and based on theory.

"What this means is you will succeed in engineering if you really like solving problems, learning how the world works or discovering new ideas. After two years of uni you will see the world around you a bit differently — in a good way!"

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