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March 11, 2019 | by  | in News | [ssba]

STEM Fields Continue to Struggle with Diversity

A prominent Engineering academic at the University of Canterbury has called to diversify the engineering industry, but how does Victoria compare?

During a recent talk, Intermediate Dean for the College of Engineering Philippa Martin acknowledged an increasing number of women in engineering, but argued that the increase was too small, and that she considers the numbers of Māori, Pasifika, and LGBTQI+ remain too low.

Martin has said the industry has an image problem which puts people off.

“People don’t understand what we do and then they think that engineers are all blokes and it’s a very masculine culture”, she said.

Radio New Zealand reporter Charlie Dreaver revealed that at industry stalwart Transpower, “six of their 10 graduates were women and two were Māori or Pasifika.”

Transpower CEO Alison Andrew said that more programmes aimed at younger children to promote maths and science need to be available to attract more underrepresented groups.

Victoria University of Wellington Women in Tech (VUWWIT) said that the under-representation issue is compounding, with the lack of diversity itself making STEM environments feel unsafe for minority groups.

Dr Stuart Marshall, Head of School of Engineering and Computer Science, told Salient that under-representation is “a known issue” in the industry, and at VUW.

Dr Marshall anticipates that representation in 2019 will be similar to previous years, with less than a quarter of first-years in the School being women or gender-diverse, only 10% Māori, and 2% Pasifika.

Postgraduate representation is expected to be similar.

The school is still waiting for final enrollment confirmations for 2019. They do not collect information on the number of queer students enrolled.

Despite the disparities, the faculty is “actively committed” to increasing accessibility and success for under-represented groups.

Initiatives to achieve this include, but are not limited to, a pre-tertiary outreach team, working with VUWWIT, and bi-monthly hui for ongoing assessment.


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