When friends Amanda Siqueira and Michelle Aguilar went through an engineering degree together at the University of Technology in Sydney, they realised immediately they were in the minority.
Siqueria and Aguilar were among the small fraction of undergraduate engineering students in Australia who are women. The industry figures are equally dismal. The latest Engineers Australia statistical overview revealed that in Australia, just under 13 percent of qualified engineers are women.
These statistics did not discourage the two young friends. In fact, for Aguilar, her compulsion was driven by the choice to adapt to different environments, put her mind to what’s in front of her and stay focused.
“We need to see more local talent hired and trained, so we can compete on the global stage,” she said in a statement released today, marking International Women in Engineering Day.
“I honestly believe Australian women in engineering are leaving our mark on our local ecosystem, which is building into a world-class innovation hub.”
Each year, a host of sponsors join The Women’s Engineering Society to celebrate the International Women in Engineering Day. This year, the UK National Commission for UNESCO, along with several other corporations including Boeing, Royal Academic of Engineering and the Royal Air Force took part in a series of activities and events to celebrate women working in engineering across the world and encourage more to join.
This year’s theme – “Shape the World”, is something Aguilar’s friend Amanda Siqueira is doing daily through her work at VAPAR, a business she co-founded with Aguilar. VAPAR utilises artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate condition assessments for stormwater and sewerage pipelines.
Siqueria believes women have an essential role to play in the traditionally male-dominated industry of engineering.
“Women have been among the most severely impacted during this time,” she said. “By combining our unique perspectives with our passion for engineering, we’ve got a huge opportunity to design and build solutions that will see us through this time and prepare our societies for the future.”
For Tamina Pitt, a software engineer at Google, getting more women into engineering means giving women the power to shape the world.
“Women’s perspectives need to be considered in new technology development,” Pitt said last year. “Having a women in the design team makes an important difference for all women. And getting into the tech field means you can work on things you are passionate about.”
Pitt was appointed to the CSIRO Indigenous Girls STEM Academy Advisory Group in February last year and has amassed wide-spread critical acclaim for her work as both an extraordinary engineer, and a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights. In 2018, she was awarded the NAIDOC Youth of the Year award, and the following year, the Spirit Award at the 2019 UNSW Indigenous Awards. In the same year, she was awarded the Engineers Australia Outstanding Student Award.
“I wanted to explore how Indigenous perspectives can affect the design of technology,” she told Engineers Australia. “I think that many Australians tend to think of ours as a culture [Indigenous] that stays in the past and is not moving into the future. But that just isn’t true.”
“From what I can see, the world and its power structures are changing. Nobody can ignore the fact that women, Indigenous people, and other marginalised people are taking power back. If industries don’t adapt to this they’ll be left behind.”
The Wuthathi and Meriam (Mer) woman said in a piece for the Australian Government last year, “It’s really important to have that range of perspectives in any design team. Indigenous voices and the voices of women are needed in tech.”
Amanda Siqueira wants to encourage more women to take the leap into engineering.
“To all the other women in engineering, whether you’re studying, looking for work, or are already in the field, happy International Women in Engineering Day – there’s never been a greater need for the value your skills can deliver. “