After more female engineering and IT students, Sydney university lowers entry bar

UTS is hoping to attract more female high school students to their engineering and IT department. Source: AAP

The first of its kind scheme is aiming to address the low numbers of women in engineering and information technology fields.

Women applying to study engineering and information technology at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) next year will receive 10 more entry points than their male counterparts, in what the university believes is a first of its kind bid to remedy the under-enrollment of women in these fields.

According to Engineers Australia, women represent approximately 18.9 per cent of engineering graduates, which appears to translate into an under-representation in the workforce, with women making up just 13 per cent of the industry

"In order to step-change gender diversity in these professions, the gender mix at undergraduate entry-level needs to change," director of UTS Women in Engineering and IT Arti Agarwal said.

Alesha Printz believes the scheme will help engineering's 'marketing problem' towards women.
Alesha Printz believes the scheme will help engineering's 'marketing problem' towards women.

Civil engineer and Victorian general manager of Engineers Australia Alesha Printz, 40, told SBS News she believed the move would send a strong message to young women that they were welcome in the field. 

"We desperately need to get the message out to our young female students that there is a good role for them in the profession, that it's appealing to women and not just about jobs for the boys," she said.

UTS Women in Engineering and IT Arti Agarwal..
UTS Women in Engineering and IT Arti Agarwal..

Reflecting on her time at university, Ms Printz said the hardest part of being a woman studying engineering was the lack of female role models. 

"We need to be looking at what we can do differently to get women into the profession and this to me is one of those things," she said.

"There's a huge challenge ahead of us that we've known about for years and years and years and it's really how do we move forward and try to find a solution."

The university requested permission from the NSW Anti-Discrimination board in order to allow women the Australian Tertiary Admission Rant (ATAR) adjustment points.

But despite the approval of the board, many have questioned whether lowering the entry bar for women is the right answer. 

Women are chronically under represented in engineering and IT.
Women are chronically under represented in engineering and IT.

"There are plenty of women who are smart enough they just choose not to study engineering at UTS," one Twitter user wrote.

"If you think the best way to get more women into engineering is to lower the standards, aren’t you kind of openly saying you think female engineers aren’t as good as male engineers," said another.

Ms Agarwal told SBS News the change did not mean they were lowering their entry scores, just that some people who applied would get ATAR adjustments, made according to various equity schemes.

"No matter who comes to us to do their degrees they all have to go through the same examinations, same studios, laboratories, internships, all of it," she said.

"There is no change, no lowering of benchmark or standards. They have to perform at the same level."

Adjustment points are currently often granted on the basis of illness and socioeconomic status.

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