Female engineers to the front
Why couldn’t Bob the Builder’s boss be female? That’s one question a female engineering student asked when we undertook qualitative research to help the University of Newcastle improve the gender balance throughout their engineering degrees. Committed to change, our clients at the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment asked us to first help them understand the barriers. Followers of the Women in STEM movement would know there are quite a few.
A complex problem required broad insights. We did immersive focus groups with female students who had the skills but had chosen science or medicine instead of engineering. We also spoke to female engineers who were kicking-ass in their organisations and we got male and female engineering students together for a chat because we need both on board to create real change.
Some of the insights were just plain confronting. These women wanted to change the world but society told them girls didn’t do engineering. Not only did we have to tackle gender stereotypes but engineering as a whole had an image problem.
Just one of the solutions came from our proactive and future focused client: a new degree that shows how female engineers can make a difference every day – medical engineering.
Results: we are making ground. The new medical engineering degree has been hugely popular, with enrolees being 42% female, a huge leap from the previous average of 12% female engineering students across the board. Plus, the clarity and insight from our research and strategy has helped UON attract more superstars like Elyse here with her awesome 3D knee. More of this please!
Images: University of Newcastle