Women in Engineering
Annual Report 2021

When we established our UQ Women in Engineering Program and set ourselves an ambitious goal of achieving 30% female enrolments by 2023 we could have never anticipated the road ahead. 

We knew that to sustainably and successfully change the balance of women in engineering we must have input and feedback from school to industry or risk leading more women into an industry that is not ready for them.

So our strategy became simple – we collaborate. 

Over the past eight years, we have sustainably increased the number of commencing female engineering students from 19.4% in 2013 before the program commenced, to 27% this year. This is well above the national average (of approximately 20%) and something we are very proud of.

Our industry partners have all committed to being the change we want to see. And the high schools and influencers we’ve connected with are equally champions in advocating for a more diverse future. 

Together with you – our industry, alumni, students, friends and staff – I foresee a bright future for our graduates where gender diversity is no longer a goal, but a reflection of what we have all achieved together. 

Thank you,
Vicki

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

Thank you to our program partners.

The consistent and ongoing support from our industry partners for the UQ Women in Engineering Program (WE) has resulted in The University of Queensland (UQ) being the university of choice for female students studying engineering in Queensland, with a record high of 27% commencing female enrolments into engineering programs in 2021, compared to a national average of 18%. 

Find the full Women in Engineering Annual Report 2021 in the tabs below:

In 2021 Brisbane experienced three COVID-19 lockdowns, which resulted in a total of 24 workshops/career fairs/tours being postponed or cancelled. Despite these challenges, and a hesitancy for high schools to allow external providers onto campus, the WE team was able to engage with over 1,500 students, of which over 1,300 were women. The team worked with a total of 88 schools and actively engaged with 58 teachers / Guidance Officers.

When I was in year 12, I was unsure what career I wanted to pursue, however, I loved maths and science, as well as the feeling of accomplishment when you solved a difficult problem. I knew I wanted to continue solving problems and provide solutions to real life issues, that we as society could benefit from. When an engineer came to school to speak about his career, everything fell into place and my eyes were opened to the world of engineering and the positive impact I could have on society. Being a woman in engineering has been very rewarding and the support provided by the UQ Women in Engineering program has been nothing short of spectacular. I have never looked back since choosing engineering as a career.

WE Student Leader
 

In 2020 WE have engaged faced to face with:

Student engagement

1568
students engaged with

Female students

1316
female students

Teachers and guidance officers

58
teachers and guidance officers

High school

88
high schools

 

WE Explore Engineering Day

Our biggest event of the year, the WE Explore Engineering Day, was set at the beautiful St Lucia campus in May with the aim to provide high school female students in Year 10 to 12 the opportunity to experience life as a student engineer and engage with our enthusiastic current engineering cohort. We had 128 students in attendance, from 21 high schools across Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Toowoomba who participated in various hands on workshops, presentations and precinct tours of their own choosing covering our six specialisations on offer at UQ.

We saw a 43% increase in students likely to consider engineering as a career after attending the WE Explore Engineering Day event, and the popular workshops were Engineers Without Borders Clean Water session, Giving Movement Back run by Mechanical Engineering lecturer, Dr Carolyn Jacobs and Rockets by UQ Space.

I loved the Clean Water workshop. The idea of working as a team budgeting and collaborating with other 'countries' was very fun, educational and made me seriously consider chemical engineering.

Attending student

I really loved every single aspect of the activity. From the food and setting to the amazing campus and engineering facility tours!

Attending teacher

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Interactive workshops

The fundamental engagement strategy for the Women in Engineering Program is to visit high schools and share the diverse and rewarding opportunities that are available in the field of engineering. The WE team are able to run a variety of workshops or share presentations, depending on the audience year level and size. 

This year the Renewable Energy Workshop was our flagship interactive workshop, delivered 12 times, both in schools and to STEM groups visiting UQ. The renewable energy messages coincided with UQ becoming energy neutral, as a result of the solar farms at Gatton and Warwick. 
 

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On campus experience

The Engineering, Design and Computing Experience Day run in September provided an on campus interactive experience for prospective students. The day included a WE booth, with student leaders speaking to over 60 high school students, and a Women in Engineering presentation focusing on study options, graduate programs and the ability to work overseas, with approximately 40 in attendance.

            

In 2021 the WE team introduced the opportunity for Year 11 and 12 students to have small group tours of the UQ Engineering precinct. The WE team hosted four student leaders, led tours, and plan to offer more in 2022.
 

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The WE team endeavour to ensure that women choosing to study engineering at UQ are warmly welcomed and supported from the very beginning of their journey. Our first point of contact is a congratulations call (the day) they receive their offer to study engineering, followed by our flagship WE welcome event in Orientation Week where the students get to meet their female cohort and our team.

The Women in Engineering Program was supported by 25 passionate student leaders this year, who are current engineering students across all six specialisations. They are involved with all our events and initiatives, and while it is a voluntary position, they have the opportunity to develop leadership, communication and teamwork skills through interaction with high school students, teachers, parents and university students. They also gain unique professional development opportunities through networking and mentoring with industry representatives.

Mentoring with a difference

Thank you to our program partners who were involved in the second year of the mentoring program, an invaluable developmental opportunity for our student leadership team to connect with an engineering professional, gain industry insights and build on their confidence and employability. We plan to run the program for the new student leadership team in 2022, and are excited to grow our pool of valuable industry mentors from our new sponsors.

Based on feedback received, we endeavour to run more workshops for our mentees including an opportunity for industry guests to present on different topics, as well as hosting a networking event inviting all mentors and mentees.

The WE Program offered a mentoring program over the past two years with some of our industry sponsors. I was fortunate to be mentored by two inspirational females, who challenged my perspectives, believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, guided me, and answered any questions I have had about industry and my career. Through mentoring I have developed personally and professionally and am so thankful for the opportunity. I would like to thank all the mentors who have given up their time to mentor a student and to my mentors specifically for shaping me into the person I am now.

Student leader 2020 and 2021.
 

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Buddy Program

We initiated the Buddy Program in Semester 1 with the aim to support first year female students through their transition from high school to university, as well as a mentoring opportunity for the leaders to give back to their cohort and provide guidance and friendship. The program saw 46 first year students interested to participate, and were matched with our 25 leaders, with casual opportunities provided and prompted throughout the year to meet over coffee.

Feedback from our student leaders varied from successful matches and catch ups, to those who never met their buddy despite reaching out and checking in throughout the semester. We plan to run the program again in 2022, and would ensure there is genuine interest from the commencing female cohort, and build on it by providing more structured meet ups including a meet your buddy welcome, and allocated drop in sessions at the First Year Engineering Learning Centre, so that groups of first year students can come together and chat with our student leaders rather than a one on one match. 

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Shadow an engineer

The Women in Engineering Program is founded on a basic concept that ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’. This year we introduced a Shadow an Engineer initiative. Thanks to our industry partner Ergon Energy and Energex two current electrical engineering students experienced first-hand, what a day in the life of a power engineer entailed. 

I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and interest they applied in their activity and even more impressed by the professionalism of their presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed having Chloe and Esandi join us. They’ve set a very high bar for future Women in Engineering students to strive for.

Ergon Energy and Energex host.

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Collaboration with student societies

SKIRTS is the UQ student society for women in engineering. This year WE leveraged this large student group to create the ‘Industry is ready for you!” panel event. A current engineering student from SKIRTS and a WE Student Leader facilitated the panel of three women from Powerlink, Ergon Energy and Energex, and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

Thanks to our industry partners for providing inspiring engineers to motivate and challenge the attendees. 

It was such a pleasure to host the joint WE & Skirts Panel this year! Our panelists were so generous in sharing their wisdom, and as we take the first steps in our careers, it was wonderful to hear from women who are paving the way. It was also great to collaborate with Skirts on our shared mission to celebrate and encourage diversity within engineering!

WE Student Leader

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UQ Women in Engineering welcomed Meagan Bebendorf to the team in 2021 as the program’s dedicated Marketing Coordinator. In order to effectively communicate and engage with our primary target audience and get our message further afield, it is imperative that we utilise digital marketing to its full advantage. Meagan will be tasked with reviewing our platforms, messaging and content to ensure that we are aligning with our target audiences and gaining maximum reach and engagement. Digital marketing will be a main contributor to assisting us with our 2023 target.

Social Media

Already the program has seen increased engagement and reach on both Facebook and Instagram, gaining the attention of future students, current students, women in engineering, and the wider community within Australia and further afield. The overall goal for our social media platforms is to create an inclusive and informative platform to promote the diverse opportunities available within engineering.

The UQWomeninEngineering Facebook page is dedicated to current engineering students at UQ, while also providing incredible insight into the life of a UQ student for future students considering tertiary studies. 

The womenin_engineering Instagram page is dedicated to the engineering industry as a whole, featuring inspiring women in engineering from all over the world, and showcasing the many specialties and endless career pathways available within engineering.

In 2021, we have featured women in engineering from a range of countries including but not limited to: Australia, United States of America, Angola, Serbia, Hungary, United Kingdom, Canada, and The United Arab Emirates. Our Instagram page recently surpassed 3,000 followers and enjoys a consistent flow of esteemed women in engineering who are keen to be featured on the page from all over the world. 

Both social pages are ranked 1st against all 15 competitors (direct and indirect competitors) in a number of key categories including engagement and followers and are tracking well above the competitor average for all remaining categories. 

If I didn't see a post made by UQ WE on one of your social media platforms I would probably never find out such a great opportunity for young engineering graduates, which will certainly kick start not only my career in engineering, but also help me adapt and build networking contacts in the chosen field of engineering.

2021 Electrical Engineering graduating student

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Paid advertising

Aligning with our goals to engage with female high school students located in regional schools, we are exploring several digital marketing opportunities through social media to this audience in 2022. We are also exploring the opportunities available to use remarketing to reach our desired audience. Remarketing enables us to track visitors to our website and send a targeted and tailored message to a specific audience from these visitors, for example, targeting female high school students living in Mackay that have visited the engineering program page.

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The Women in Engineering Program is entering its 10th year of targeted engagement with female high school students. While the activities, social media and digital reach have evolved over this time, the core values and messages have remained consistent. With a full WE team on board we are enthusiastically planning events and initiatives for 2022.

Hybrid Collaboration Workshop 2022

The University Collaboration Workshop provides an opportunity for university teams from all over Australia and New Zealand to share their knowledge and recruitment initiatives aimed at increasing the national participation of women in engineering studies and promoting gender equity at tertiary and industry levels.

Over thirty university teams have shown interest in participating in the University Collaboration Workshop for 2022. This is over 70% of universities in Australia and New Zealand that offer an engineering program, making it our biggest workshop yet. The 2022 workshop will be split into two days, held 3 weeks apart. 

In order to allow teams to receive the invaluable in-person collaboration that we have experienced in previous years as a collective, day one will involve teams from each state gathering at a host location. These regional gatherings will allow for teams to discuss their experiences and challenges overcome over the past two years and benefit from knowledge sharing and developing action plans to implement in their own programs. 

Day two will be hosted by The University of Queensland where all states will connect through an online platform. This day is set to be both inspirational and insightful and provides an opportunity to come together, learn from one another, and move forward as a collective. We have an incredible line-up of speakers planned for this day, including representation from our industry program partners. 
 

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Podcast Season 2

In 2020, UQ Women in Engineering launched a twelve-episode podcast series ‘But Seriously, What is Engineering?’ with the aim to educate and inspire the next generation, specifically high school female students, to consider a career in engineering and promote the vast opportunities available to them. We covered the big questions:

  • What does a career in engineering look like?
  • What makes a great engineer?
  • And what’s in store for the future of engineering? 

Available via all leading platforms, Season 1 achieved over 1,800 downloads. Leveraging off the overwhelming success of Season 1, ‘But Seriously, What is Engineering?’ is returning in 2022, bigger and better than ever. Season 2 will be a twelve-episode series, filmed and recorded at UQ's St Lucia campus, with an impressive line-up of inspiring engineers eager to showcase the world of engineering from varying perspectives and specialties.

The WE Student Leaders will play a pivotal role in Season 2, hosting each episode and conducting the interviews. Their genuine inquisitiveness and relatability to our target audience of high school and current engineering students will ensure the conversation is engaging and of interest to effectively capture this demographic.
 

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Regional Engagement

Looking ahead, as we approach the 2023 target of 30% women commencing engineering at UQ, the Women in Engineering Program must increase the spread of the diversity message, with a focus on regional engagement in 2022.

The WE team are collaborating with the UQ Future Students team to access regional careers fairs, and approach large high schools in the area, with the aim of running hands on workshops before or after the career fair event. The team will endeavour to match WE Student Leaders, from regional areas, with the proposed career fair and school engagement, to ensure that the leaders are relatable and approachable.

Due to the success of the existing Women in Engineering Program, the start-up time for a regional outreach is expected to be minimal, as the team already have presentations, workshops, marketing material and pop up banners to use.

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Closing message from the UQ Women in Engineering
Program team

women in engineering team, 3 women smiling at camera
L to R: Negin Beaton, Amanda Merrick and Meagan Bebendorf

2021 was a year of change and growth for the WE team. Amanda, with over 15 years engineering experience, joined the team just in time for the WE Explore Engineering Day, while Negin took six months parental leave for her second addition to the family. We also welcomed Meagan to the team, to coordinate all of the marketing, promotion and social media aspects of the program. 

This year we introduced the Shadow an Engineer initiative to give current female engineering students an opportunity to see first-hand what a day in the life of an engineer entailed. Thank you, Ergon Energy and Energex, for hosting two WE Student Leaders for an invaluable experience.
We identified the significant impact that Guidance Officers have on high school student subject selection and QTAC preferences. We met with over 20 high school Guidance Officers, sent engineering brochures for them to share with potential students and emailed them opportunities for the WE team to visit the school to lead hands on workshops.

In 2021 the WE team was able to undertake outreach to educate over 1,500 high school students about the diverse and exciting career opportunities within engineering. We also hosted four tours of the EAIT Precinct with the aim of connecting with potential future students. 
In recognition of the impact that the UQ Women in Engineering Program is having on the student understanding of engineering, and the number of women choosing to study engineering at UQ, this year the team was honoured with a Commendation Award for excellence in Community, Diversity and Inclusion. 

In preparation for 2022, the WE team are currently working on updating our library of marketing materials including presentations and flyers, while also introducing some additional one-page flyers for use at industry events, school visits, tertiary exhibitions and campus events. The first on the list is to complete a double-sided flyer that is able to summarise WE’s achievements, goals, outreach activities, and promote our program partners.

We are incredibly excited about the 2022 outreach program, including a new chemical engineering cookie challenge workshop, the recording of Season 2 of the ‘But Seriously, What is Engineering?’ podcast and the National University Collaboration Workshop.

 

Amanda Merrick, Negin Beaton and Meagan Bebendorf
WE team

  we@eait.uq.edu.au
  +61 7 3443 1654