OPINION

Guiding more young women into engineering

Space. Rockets Satellites. Planetary exploration. As an aerospace engineer, I can work in all these areas. It's as exciting as it sounds and is limitless in how it continues to shape our collective future.

The broader field of engineering offers so many opportunities for young Australians. Our future infrastructure, environment and technology will depend on the skills of engineers. Finding innovative solutions to the challenges of the future will require diverse thinking and skills that only come from a diverse, inclusive engineering workforce.

But women remain under-represented in engineering. As many as 25 per cent of girls are choosing to opt out of maths in their final years of high school. Along with science, maths is foundational to a career in engineering. Failing to take these subjects at school makes the pathway to engineering and other STEM fields more difficult.

A failure to address this disengagement of girls from maths and science not only limits the diversity of our future engineering workforce, but all STEM fields.

The reasons they are choosing to opt-out of maths and science in high school are varied, but we cannot underestimate the role self-confidence, peer support and female role models have in changing girls' attitudes and engagement.

Education, communication and visible role models are the keys to improving this situation. We must engage with girls, providing them with practical experience and visible role models of successful women in engineering and STEM more broadly.

Outreaches such as UNSW Canberra's Young Women in Engineering (YoWIE) summer program can change the narrative. Designed for year 9 and 10 girls, YoWIE shows young women what a career in engineering looks like, before they make critical decisions on where to focus their studies.

YoWIE is a three-day, non-residential event. YoWIEs participate in a range of hands-on activities, hear talks by practicing female engineers and get information on what subjects are required, and recommended, for engineering degrees at university. This year, we were delighted to welcome students from across regional Australia.

In 2020, YoWIEs will experience different types of engineering and science across the disciplines of electrical, mechanical, aeronautical, space, chemical and civil engineering. The program is free and runs each year in January. Registrations for YoWIE 2020 are now open.

Dr Bianca Capra is a senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at UNSW Canberra's School of Engineering and Information Technology and co-chair of YoWIE.

This story We need to guide more young women into engineering first appeared on The Canberra Times.