6 steps for inspiring more girls into engineering - insights from the UQ Women in Engineering team
We are pretty passionate about inspiring young people into careers in the power sector, particularly young women, and the API's Powerful Women Leadership Program includes commitments for the program participants to connect with primary and high school students.
But it would be fair to say that doing this effectively is no easy task (inspiring young people, especially girls), and there has been a lot of commentary in the media and from experts recently on the progress (or lack there of) in Australia after a decade and substantial dollars to increase participation of Women in STEM.
Fortunately there has been some exellent work done lately that can guide us, such as Engineers Australia's study released in July 2022 on Women in Engineering. It includes some fantastic data on the factors that influence the awareness, engagement levels and choices of young women when it comes to considering a career in engineering.
Also thanks to the API's long association with the UQ Women in Engineering team, we have access to some wonderful talent and deep experience in the practical aspects of getting into schools and connecting with high school students to inspire interest in careers in engineering.
Through our UQ WE links, we recently had Amanda Merrick, UQ WE's Development and Communications Coordinator share her insights as part of our monthly Powerful Women Leadership Program online 'mingle'.
You can see (and comment on) the observations we made in talking with Amanda, as part of our group planning for school engagement in the PWLP program on the Miro Board (the image above).
Step 1: Things to keep in mind when talking to an audience of high school girls
Step 2: Suggestions for messages in a common slide deck to be used by PWLP Ambassadors
when talking in the classroom (or online)
Step 3: Information and messages to include in the API's Electify Your Future email and social media follow-up program (drip feeding information in emails and social media to registered students)
Step 4: What to write/say to a teacher about coming in to talk to their students about careers in power
Step 5: Ideas for how to identify a school that you could approach.
Step 6: what training and support will you need to be an ambassador
Learning from the Engineers Australia report
The API team are already implementing guidance included in the report (and much to our delight, we are already on the right track with much of what we are doing).
Highlights that we've taken from the report include:
a) efforts for raising awareness alone can have a big impact (cue our outreach programs and our new Project Energise program to support a community of Power Ambassadors).
b) language used and the elements of the career experience that we focus on are critical - more emphasis should be made of how careers in power are fulfilling, focused on serving the community, exciting, working in teams, being creative and solving challenges.
c) pivoting the message away from "if you are good at maths and science" to "do you like solving problems, working in teams etc (see item B above), and you only need to be able to do the maths and science to be an engineer. In my view, those who 'love' maths and science should probably do maths and science, but most engineers I know love the application of it and any other knowledge we can develop.