Early-starts to interest women in engineering

Encouraging young woman post-school is way too late

It’s a key finding in a new analysis by Monash U’s Deborah Corrigan and Kathleen Aikens, for the Engineering for Australia Taskforce.

Their literature review of girls’ engagement with STEM finds the middle school years (ten to 14) are a “critical age for intervention, as overall student interest in school begins to decline and the STEM gap between boys and girls widens.”

But the difficulty in encouraging an interest in engineering then is the discipline, “has an image problem in schools,”

“There is much evidence to suggest that the issue of a ‘leaky pipeline’ in STEM occurs at the earliest ages and continues throughout the career lifecycle,” Corrigan and Aikens warn.

They propose three responses;

*  evaluating the impact of existing engineering (STEM) interventions

* an inclusive vision for STEM and engineering, “beyond providing positive role models”

* “engineering faculties and industries need to work collaboratively with education faculties to build strong STEM and engineering practices within both the initial teacher education sector and the teaching profession

Victoria’s Chief Engineer Collette Burke nailed why this needs be done in her report on the state of the profession;

“fundamentally, we need to challenge cultural and social perceptions and stereotypes, and drive toward a long-term education strategy for parents, teachers and the community. We also need to keep investigating why, despite the many initiatives currently underway, we are not seeing the desired outcomes,” (CMM November 2 2018).

Members of the Engineering for Australia Taskforce are the discipline deans at ANU, Monash U and UNSW.