First year female enrolments in engineering at UNSW have increased from 20 to 22% this year, with the faculty on target to reach their goal of 25% by 2020.
Engineering is a profession traditionally dominated by men – only around 10% of engineering professionals in Australia are women – however it offers a rewarding and well paid career for both sexes.
Dr Alex Bannigan, Women in Engineering manager at UNSW, says the faculty has developed a number of programs to encourage girls to consider a career in engineering.
“Engineering actually ticks a lot of the boxes girls want in a career, but it's not presented that way,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"A great example is Engineers Without Borders, who go to developing countries and make real, tangible differences in people's lives.
“Exposing girls to the idea that engineering is a social, creative, helpful career can make a really big difference to their perceptions,” she said.
Fifth year electrical engineering student Varuni Fernando also believes engineering has a perception problem.
"The engineers you usually see out and about are often on construction sites, wearing hard hats – and that doesn't appeal to a lot of girls," Fernando said.
"But it's not all building a bridge or putting up power lines; my experiences in engineering are looking at applying electronics to healthcare and things that help people more directly, which a lot of women can relate to," she said.
Through the help of a UNSW co-op scholarship, Fernando has had the opportunity to work in the mining industry and with Sydney Water. She will begin full-time work at medical device manufacturer ResMed in January.
"ResMed have been big supporters of women in engineering through Engineers Australia, where I am a student ambassador," Fernando said.
Media contact: Leilah Schubert, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 8107.