International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership
Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord
Chapter 12: ‘Engineering is gendered’ is a threshold concept
Despite dramatic increases over the twentieth century in the representation of women in professions such as law, medicine, and veterinary science, engineering remains a profession in which women are under-represented in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Western Europe including Ireland and the UK. Many initiatives have been implemented in these countries over the most recent three decades, yet women remain under-represented among engineering students and even more under-represented among practising engineers. In Australia, female percentages of domestic professional engineering degree completions decreased from a modest peak of 16.9 per cent in 2001 to 12.9 per cent in 2010 (Kaspura, 2012, p. 54). Female engineering students in Australia have had higher success rates than male engineering students (King, 2008). However, after graduation women leave the profession at higher rates than men and the percentage of women in the engineering profession in Australia is even lower than indicated by female student participation rates. Only 11.8 per cent of the supply of engineers in Australia was female at the last census (Kaspura, 2013, p. 1). Addressing the problems arising from under-representation of women in engineering is a greater imperative than one of achieving equal opportunity, strength in diversity, or increasing the talent pool. There is evidence that the dominance of men in engineering has shaped engineering practice, the identities of engineers, understanding of engineering practice and consequently design and implementation of engineering curricula. Understanding this is critical to improving engineering practice and will be difficult to achieve chiefly because the concept is foreign to many engineers.
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