Faculty of
Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

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Thank you to our program partners

2020 was a pivotal year for the Women in Engineering (WE) team as we successfully innovated the way we delivered our engagement when COVID-19’s global spread accelerated social distancing and halted physical events. We extend our sincere gratitude to all of our industry partners – Rio Tinto, API, Powerlink, Energex and Energy Queensland along with our Advisory Board Members for your strategic guidance, resilience and support of our initiatives this year. Without you we would be unable to conduct educational and empowering engagements with students, nor take our message to a broader audience through roundtable discussions and virtual events.

Rio Tinto              Ergon Energy and Energex          Australian Power Institute

A message from the Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Professor Vicki Chen pictured with Women in Engineering Student Leaders
Professor Vicki Chen pictured with the Women in Engineering team
Majella Cassidy, Amy Tran, Kartikee Gupta and Charlotte Levy

2020 is certainly going to be a year we will all remember. Even though the way we’ve delivered our message on Engineering has changed, our purpose has not.

Women in Engineering continues to be a major focus for UQ, a vital component to the ongoing health and renewal of the engineering profession. We are so grateful for our partners Rio Tinto and The Australian Power Institute, with Powerlink Queensland, Ergon Energy and Energex, and our Advisory Board members. But even more so this year, their genuine collaborative support and focus to create change in a challenging environment has really demonstrated that WE are equally committed to creating a more equitable gender balance for engineering.

We have seen a shift from personal engagement with High Schools to a broader, digital approach as we implemented new ways to connect with prospective students. Our engagement levels from previous years in the program have set a foundation that will carry us through 2020. As we refocus for 2021 and beyond, our learnings from this year are bound to make the program stronger, both for UQ and engineering across Australia.

The future of engineering is genuinely exciting. I sincerely thank you for your ongoing support in demystifying engineering, highlighting the opportunities and inspiring more young women to pursue engineering.

Professor Vicki Chen
Executive Dean of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

A message from the Women in Engineering Team

Kartikee and Negin - Women in Engineering Team
Negin Beaton and Kartikee Gupta

As we faced the challenges of 2020, the UQ Women in Engineering (WE) team pivoted and innovated the way they educate, engage and inspire future students about Engineering.

We implemented new initiatives including the release of a podcast, the development of a new hands on workshop, and a suite of digital resources. Research has shown that diversity fosters innovation and that diverse teams lead to positive outcomes to solve the challenging problems we face today. Whilst we demonstrated to students the technical work that goes behind the engineering workshops, we also emphasised on the standing of diverse thinking to solve complex problems and the importance of diversity both at tertiary and industry levels.

Although we were unable to visit schools for almost six months, we maintained strong engagement with our teacher and industry networks and used this time to provide digital platforms to continue to deliver our message and expand our reach both across the nation and globally.

Despite the extraordinary and unpredictable circumstances of 2020, we were able to deliver on our strategic initiatives set out at the end of 2019. This included running the Mentoring with a Difference program for current student leaders thanks to Rio Tinto. This program provided an invaluable opportunity for our student leader team to develop both personally and professionally, as well as build a meaningful connection with industry partners during a time of work and study from home arrangements. Many of our student leaders are continuing their mentorship beyond the formality of the program, and we are looking forward to running it with our new 2021 leaders and open up to mentors from all our industry partners.

Another key milestone this year was engaging with parents. Parents are one of the biggest influencers in their child’s decision making for further study and career decisions. We hosted a dedicated parent session at the Girls in Computing event, sharing with them our own personal stories of industry experience and our passion to improve diversity in engineering. We also discussed our program and the support and opportunities their daughters will have when they come to study engineering programs at UQ.

Negin Beaton and Kartikee Gupta
Women in Engineering team

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In 2020 WE have engaged face to face with:

  • Student engagement

    992
    students

  • Female students

    793
    female students

  • Teachers and guidance officers

    52
    teachers

  • High school

    49
    schools

Our digital initiatives enabled us to expand our reach further than ever before and deliver our messaging across Australia and globally

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Digital Resources

But Seriously, What is Engineering? podcast series

WE staff in recording session for podcast
Host Kartikee Gupta and podcast guests in the recording studio

Recognising and responding to the limitations of physical opportunities to present in early 2020, the Women in Engineering team pivoted from providing in person career experiences to sharing these insights through podcasts. WE leveraged both UQ and industry connections to launch a brand-new series called, But Seriously, What is Engineering?

The series included guest interviews with some of the most successful engineers in Queensland, along with current student stories and conversations with leading researchers in the industry. Each episode was crafted to educate and inspire prospective students and their influencers about studying engineering and the diverse career paths it offers.

Embracing podcasting opened the career insights to a broader demographic – remote, regional, national and even global. The podcast has reached nearly 2000 downloads and we have received positive and supportive feedback included in the testimonials section below. View our global engagement by continent.

Significant planning, preparation and post production editing happened behind the scenes in order to bring the interview to air. WE are incredibly proud of the success this podcast has achieved from inception to delivering the series. WE were interviewed by ABC news about the motivations behind this podcast and about our programs aim to improve gender balance in engineering at tertiary and industry levels. Most recently, the podcast was featured as one of the top podcasts to listen to from Engineers Australia.

Finally, we would like to thank all the volunteers and podcast guest features who have played an active part in supporting our initiatives and helping us shape the future strategy through what’s been a challenging year. Our thanks to you all for making the pivot and innovation of our online presence a resounding success.

Making an Impact with Engineering video

In a time of uncertainty and the consequent absence of physical engagement activities we utilised digital resources to deliver presentations to high school students, teachers and parents and empower them with all the information and inspiration they need to consider pursuing Engineering at UQ.

We recorded our Making an Impact with Engineering presentation live at the St Lucia campus which involved three of our student leaders showcasing UQ facilities while promoting the diverse career paths with Engineering including Health, Digital Design and Technology, Energy, Environment and Humanitarian, Space, Advanced Manufacturing and Resources. As part of a virtual method of delivery, WE offered a live Q and A session with a panel of our student leaders and industry guests as a follow up after viewing the video content. The content has reached over 1000 views by prospective students, their parents and teachers.

In addition to our flagship digital content, we also created a Q and A video explaining the purpose of the Women in Engineering program which went live on the first ever online Open Day. Our session was virtually attended by over 70 female students along with their parents and the live chat was buzzing with fantastic follow up questions from eager students interested to study Engineering at UQ.

Overall the team produced:

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Program highlights

  • Explore Engineering Show
    Engineering Explore Show
    at Brisbane Girls' Grammar School

    WE Explore Engineering Show

    Our biggest annual event of the year, Explore Engineering Day, adapted to a new format this year as the Explore Engineering Show.

    After feedback and engagement with the network of high school teachers and guidance officers we have built and maintained over the last seven years of the program, WE brought the event to the schools. Through live demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and a panel event, the two-hour show allowed students to explore explored all corners of Engineering and promote the new six specialisations of Engineering offered at UQ. Thank you to our industry guests from Ergon Energy and Energex who joined the panel and shared their day in the life of an industry.

    From prosthetic mechanics, food engineering and human centred design thinking, the students involved gained fantastic insights into the diverse and exciting careers available with Engineering. The workshops on offer got them thinking about how diversity eliminates siloed thinking, fosters innovation and leads to the best outcomes in problem solving the challenges we face in making the world a better place.

    The event involved 15 of our student leaders who took part in the workshop planning, training and roll out of the event which provided them a great development opportunity to build their leadership, communication and confidence skills in presenting and engaging with prospective students. We also engaged with UQ academics from the School of Chemical Engineering and School of Mechanical and Mining to deliver expertise and relevant research in our presentation.

    WE know we are making an impact – we engaged with 243 students, 158 of them were females and 15 high school teachers over the course of the two-week event. There was a 92% increase in student perception after attending the event adding Engineering to their future study shortlist after never having considered it before the event. The teachers loved it too – they all agreed it added value to them and their students, aligned with school curriculum objectives and was informative about Engineering.

  • Sun Smart Code
    Women in Engineering student leader, Aira Fabello
    at the Young Leaders Conference

    Sun Smart Code

    WE set out to bring a new hands on workshop to our program this year, and successfully developed and implemented Sun Smart Code – linking health, technology and engineering. We engaged with prospective students and introduced them to innovation as well as embedding the workshop in teacher professional development by aligning to the school curriculum and 21st century skills.

    Following on from our extensive market research conducted on the current student cohort last year, WE know that a major inspiration to study engineering for our female students was to help people, and this in turn was our motivation to develop the new workshop. We want prospective students to know that engineers are making a significant impact in the health industry!

    In the workshop, the students develop a UV detection medical device to alert the user when they are at high exposure to UV rays. They learn basic coding to program an Arduino, and understand the concepts of the electrical engineering components to wire a bread board including the LED sensors which are programmed to turn on at different UV levels.

    The development of the workshop was a major testament to our student leader team as well as our collaboration with the School of ITEE. Through virtual meetings planning the workshop objectives and activities, learning from past thesis student projects for guidance, countless hours spent on testing and trialling each component and finally training the team on the activities, WE delivered a major milestone for the WE program which will be used for years to come.

    WE took the workshop for a demonstration run at the WE Explore Engineering Show with great interest to bring it their schools in 2021. Initial feedback from the students we’ve delivered the workshop to is that it is very engaging and challenging and has opened up their minds about the endless opportunities for them to be part of an innovative solution in the health industry. WE ran two sessions at the Young Leaders Conference and received positive feedback and interest from students to learn more about engineering. WE are looking forward to getting students interested in Software and Electrical Engineering in 2021.

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Testimonials

Prospective Students

“The activities were really fun and interactive.”
“The Explore Engineering Show was very engaging – thank you for the experience!”
"Thanks so much for organising yesterday’s tour – the leaders were so helpful, it was such a great opportunity to see what engineering at UQ looks like and has definitely given me a lot of clarity about my decisions for uni next year.”
“The Explore Engineering Show was so engaging and I learnt so much.”

Teachers

“It was great for the males to see these highly ambitious and successful women as a force to be reckoned with and show them that their peers can be just like these impressive women.”
“It is a really valuable experience for the students to hear from people who are living the futures that our students are considering.”
“I love the video. It is really fantastic and explains a lot about engineering. It is probably the best resource so far because the girls really outline what is available and what it means. You could use that video with young students from year 7 as it was so explanatory. The young women did a fabulous job! Congratulations on such a wonderful resource!”

Parents

“I feel so supported and comforted by attending this event, meeting your team, knowing my daughter is in good hands when she comes to study at UQ.”
“Thanks for organising such a great event, it was nice to hear that UQ has a dedicated Women in Engineering team.”

Women in Engineering Student Leaders

“I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to be a part of WE. It was a great experience and I found it very valuable. Even though COVID-19 impacted a lot of plans, the WE team handled the transition well and kept in touch with the leaders and adapted to provide opportunities under the new circumstances.”
“I loved the mentoring program, it was one of the most valuable experiences I've had! Getting to know the other student leaders and WE team has also been nice and I'm glad to have met everyone, it made this year 100 times better.”
“It's been a pleasure being a student leader for WE for a second year in a row. It is such a great program – both for the school students and the leaders. It has definitely improved my confidence and my public speaking ability! Great to meet and get to know the other leaders as well.”

Podcast

“I loved the podcast series! It was a source of inspiration and motivation for me to get through my first year of studies considering the circumstances and having to spend a lot of the time on my own without the usual support network and friendships I would have gained if it was a normal year.”
“I listened to a few episodes of the podcast series and really loved season one, I’m not an engineer myself and found it so interesting and easy to listen to!”
“If you know a young person who does well in science/maths and is thinking about their career options, I highly recommended this series of podcasts. If you're a parent, wondering what this engineering business is all about and if you should encourage your child/nephew/niece/friend etc. in this direction, then this series has something for you too.”

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Lessons Learned

Lesson Learned
Women in Engineering team meeting virtually

As we moved over to virtual platforms for delivery of our messaging, we offered online presentations to our schools while they were also adapting to learning from home in the first half of the year. We ran our first virtual Making an Impact with Engineering presentation in May, and with the support of an engaged teacher we had a strong attendance of interested female students join the webinar after school hours. We received positive feedback after the event from the students, however lacked the immediate feedback and energy we receive when we are in the classroom. We decided to adapt the virtual offering for future engagement as a live Q and A session with our student leaders and industry guests, after having the students watch our video. We know we are most effective and make the most impact when we are face to face, and made the most of these opportunities when we were welcomed back to the schools in the second half of the school year.

In the current student space, we were very mindful on developing strategies to keep the first year student cohort engaged and connected. Our virtual coffee catch ups with the student leader team was a successful initiative and it included a new topic for discussion at each meeting and an opportunity to hear from industry speakers.

We hosted a virtual Lunch and Learn event aimed for first year female students, as an opportunity to reconnect with our student leaders and know that the Women in Engineering team were here to support them and share the online journey together. Industry guest speakers from our Women in Engineering Alumni Council joined the online event too, sharing their perspective on adjusting to work from home, plus how student engineers can best prepare themselves for future technological changes. With all the time and planning that went into creating this event, the low attendance from our target audience indicated that they were fatigued from online engagement, and we decided to focus our efforts on when we would be able to provide physical events again. We were able to connect with them face to face in collaboration with the Faculty Academic team as part of the Meet and Greet discipline explainer lunches, assisting the students in selecting their majors after completing their flexible first year program.

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2020 WE Strategy

Having delivered the key initiatives which formed part of the 2020 WE strategy, we will quickly move to deliver on our proposed initiatives for 2021 and beyond. This is to ensure that we meet our target of 30% female student cohort by 2023 as well as strengthen the diversity pipeline and industry’s ability to attract exceptional female talent from UQ. We have developed an ambitious strategy and one that will require a sustained effort to achieve our goals through a steady, carefully planned and concentrated process.

To achieve our desired KPI, our overall program focus for 2021 and the years beyond will be on engaging with students in senior year levels, and those who we have previously engaged with over the past years of the program. The graph below shows the program’s historical engagement split by year level, and our expected conversion rate of percentage of females commencing undergraduate programs at UQ in their respective conversion year.

This year, we enhanced our suite of resources with the inclusion of digital assets which can be delivered virtually. This will give us an opportunity to engage with a wide range of audiences who we weren’t able to interact with face to face this year and expand our reach both nationally and globally. Our focus will also be on current student attrition and we hope to achieve this by providing mentoring opportunities and access to support networks.

WE Annual Report graph

  • Prospective Students
    • Senior Annual Explore Day
    • Senior Explore Industry Day
    • Regional engagement
  • Current Students
    • Mentoring for Student Leaders
    • Industry Readiness Workshop
    • First Year Buddy Program
  • Wider Networks
    • University Collaboration Workshop
    • Season 2 of the podcast series
    • Dedicated parent, guidance officer and teacher information sessions