A new approach to increasing diversity in engineering at the example of women in engineering
A new initiative to incorporate diversity issues into the common engineering curriculum at the University of Wollongong (UoW) in Australia is outlined and the effect on student awareness quantified. The diversity issues were illustrated at the example of women in engineering seeing that the numbers of women in engineering have dropped drastically over the last five years at UoW. However, the methodology applied can be adjusted to any diversity group to suit needs of the institution performing the activity. The method is based on the hypothesis that raising awareness and understanding across the entire student body will be a first step to change. The approach is different to the traditional recruitment and marketing approach of convincing women to try engineering with little follow up support. The initiative involves a diversity lecture delivered to all fourth year engineering students as part of a compulsory management subject. It is anticipated that with the current approach all students are made aware of the problems women expect to face in the engineering profession. This awareness is hoped to bring about some of the required change in culture and prepare women to draw on available support. The strategy does not exclude men, but includes men as instruments for positive change through an understanding of the benefits of a gender balanced and diverse work environment on everyone. The initiative is popular with students who through their feedback are requesting more such activities, in particular in early years of engineering education.