Org secures critical funding to support women in STEM
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Australia, has received a major grant from the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources as part of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) program.
The organisation is one of eight that WiSE will fund to address barriers preventing girls and women entering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
“We work primarily with young people, many who are from groups underrepresented in engineering, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and women,” said Alison Stoakley, Senior Manager, Education at EWB.
“Our volunteers - themselves engineers – take participants through a series of engagement activities which showcase engineering as a powerful discipline that has the potential to shape the world.
“We show participants that the profession is not just about studying maths and science. Engineers need to consider human and environmental factors in their profession. We re-define engineering to young people by highlighting that it is a socio-technical discipline,” said Stoakley.
The “Futur-neer” program has the double benefit of retaining and attracting women in engineering, as participants get to interact with and learn from engineers who they look up to. Volunteers delivering the workshops, 60% of whom are women, are reminded of why they are passionate about the profession, and tend to stay in it.
Eleanor Loudon, CEO of EWB, describes this community of peers as passionate and like-minded people creating a “stickiness”. It directly creates retention in the traditionally leaky pipeline.
Eleanor believes more diversity in engineering creates better outcomes for the world. She adds: “All individuals who want to, should have the opportunity to participate in a profession that is shaping our world. It’s not only fair; it’s critical for success.”
The Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, works closely with the Australian Government to catalyse change through programs like WiSE and welcomes the commitment of additional $10 million over the next two years for WiSE grants.
“Women make up less than a quarter of students studying STEM and participation rates are even lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse women,” said Professor Harvey-Smith. “The WiSE grants play an important role in bridging the gender gap in STEM.”
Latest data on women and girls’ participation in STEM shows more work is needed to achieve gender equity by 2030.
“We know, for example, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls face additional barriers to entering STEM study and the workforce, so it is crucial that projects designed to challenge these obstacles are being funded through WiSE.”
Professor Harvey-Smith also makes the case that evaluation is key to understanding the impact of gender equity programs.
“As a team we have created a comprehensive evaluation guide specific to STEM gender equity programs and it will play a critical role in assessing the impact of the WiSE projects. Evaluation is essential to helping us understand and develop those key initiatives making a real difference to increasing girls and women’s participation in STEM,” added Professor Harvey-Smith.
This is the third cohort of WiSE projects. The full list of WiSE grant recipients can be found at business.gov.au/grants-and-programs.