Giugni said: “Something that started happening when the program started was that people said it would get harder to defend ourselves in class. But my biggest problem was that I had to do that well in advance of the settlement, so why wouldn’t it still be offered?”
In 2019, the university received permission from the NSW Discrimination Council to award female school leavers 10 extra points for a period of 10 years. While adjustment points are often used by universities to account for socioeconomic disadvantage and disease, the university believed it was the first to offer them based on gender.
A 2022 report from Engineers Australia found that only 16 percent of engineering graduates and 13 percent of the workforce were women.
The top reasons women said they didn’t study engineering included a lack of awareness of what it entailed, the idea that it was a male-dominated industry, and poor involvement in STEM subjects through school.
Associate Dean in the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT Anne Gardner said she was pleased with the initial results of the program but acknowledged that more needed to be done at both the university and industrial levels.
“There are still some socio-cultural issues. We still have female students telling us that their career counselor at their school has told them that engineering isn’t something they should be thinking about,” she said.
Gardner said there was only a fairly loose correlation between college performance and ATAR, and that all students had to meet the same requirements once accepted.
“[ATAR] is more of a popularity index than an indicator of a course’s difficulty,” said Gardner.
“The students who are presented with the adaptations get the same grading tasks, the course coordinators can’t see which students they have in their class, and they grade everyone on the merits of their work submitted.”
Kylie Walker, CEO of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, said changing the industry’s culture to be more inclusive for women, and addressing the STEM reward for men and women, was perhaps the biggest barrier for improving the participation of women in the workforce.
“But the bigger problem isn’t getting them into a bachelor’s degree, but keeping them in the profession, and that’s a more difficult challenge to tackle,” she said.
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