Ridiculous situations exist, such as the small number of women’s restrooms in soccer stadiums that result in queues that wind around the door and around the concourse – all because of ill-informed design decisions.
These design flaws are just one example. The same flaw appears in many areas of design and technology. Imagine being satisfied with buildings, public services, health care and transportation that are only half efficient, half safe, half efficient, half acceptable. But we are, and have been for generations. As engineers, this is our own problem to solve. To combat unconscious bias, we must first recognize that we have it.
Equal representation of women in engineering is the only way to solve this problem. This will go a long way towards meeting Australia’s need for a much larger number of skilled engineers if we are to achieve our ambitious development goals over the next decade. We are the worst performing STEM profession for female participation, but we are the largest employer of STEM professions. It’s time to act now, to prevent us from having this conversation again in 20 years.
There are tools the profession can use now to break down biases, including pay gap analysis, parental leave, flexible working for all, removing names and gender from job applications, ensuring gender equality in recruitment panels and setting gender representation targets. Engineers Australia is working on research to identify the key motivators and interaction points that drive young women to study engineering. We will share the results with industry and government to increase activity in these areas.
Engineering is at the point where art meets science. Engineers are designers, creatives, innovators and leaders; all titles that are suitable for both women and men. Our profession has a role in everything we use, live, consume and experience, and will be a key driver in the push towards an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable living.
There are girls in primary school right now who will be our next generation of engineers. It is these women of the future who will usher the profession into a new era and give society the proper standards of design, utility and safety it deserves.
We will not remain silent. Engineering needs women and women need engineering. Break the bias.