With less than 14% of degree qualified engineers in Australia being women, YoWIEs, or Young Women in Engineering are as difficult to find in engineering schools across Australia as their mythical counterparts.
This week, UNSW Canberra is hosting the largest pack of YoWIEs ever seen at its engineering summer school, and it really is an amazing sight.
The YoWIE program was created to directly disrupt the imbalance in the gender make up of Australian engineers. It has been designed specifically for young women and aims to show them engineering is for them through a number of fun, hands-on activities.
This year, more than 80 year 9 to 12 girls from across the country have come together to take part in the free three-day event. Some of the activities the girls will complete include designing satellites, building and testing rockets, disassembling a lawn mower and programming a robot. They will also hear from Liz Pearce who works at the Australian Space Agency.
Event organiser and aerospace engineer Dr Bianca Capra is passionate about increasing the number of women into the profession she loves.
“Engineering is a unique profession mixing creativity, abstract thinking and technical skills to solve unknown problems,” Dr Capra said.
“It is fundamental to our lives, yet sadly remains non-representative of our society. The innovative future that is our promise to further generations will only be achieved with diverse and inclusive teams – and increasing the number of women in engineering is a crucial first step to greater diversity.”
Dr Capra said the participants are at an important time in their schooling. Some will be deciding on subjects for their senior classes, while others considering university options.
“Over the next few days, these young women will develop and use the real skills of practicing engineers, improving not only their skills but their confidence in engineering. We hope that this week they are empowered to continue studies in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are critical subjects to any STEM career,” Dr Capra said.
“YoWIE continues to grow organically, with a year-on-year growth of about 28% so we must be doing something right! The success of YoWIE is testament to the depth of the program as well as the support from schools, teachers and parents. Importantly this program is having a real impact with several of our first pack of YoWIEs enrolling to studying engineering.
“We need gender parity in all areas of STEM, and particularly engineering where the numbers remain stubbornly low. It’s time we shook things up, and that’s what we do here at YoWIE and that’s why I love it.”