The Engineering for Australia Taskforce has been created to focus on improving gender representation for domestic applicants to Australian engineering university degrees.
Engineering enrolments do not reflect the diversity of the Australian population. This is particularly well documented for gender diversity, which will be the focus of the Taskforce.
Despite numerous outreach and engagement programs and initiatives, no Australian engineering faculty has been able to achieve increases of significance for undergraduate enrolments across all courses. The number of female students who meet the prerequisites to study engineering continues to decline. From at least age 9, girls report lower interest and confidence than boys in maths, despite no difference in ability.
The gender diversity issues in STEM and engineering, in particular, have been well documented and are well known.
Meet the Taskforce
In 2019 a group met in Melbourne and over video conference to discuss their concerns about diversity in engineering education. Originally, the meeting was planned between Professor Elizabeth Croft (Monash), Professor Mark Hoffman (UNSW) and Professor Elanor Huntington (ANU), but the guest list grew as other people signalled interest.
The group agreed to form a Taskforce to increase female participation in Australian engineering education. A report was commissioned through Monash University to identify opportunities to mitigate the existing barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from choosing to study engineering.
The Taskforce will work on selecting actions from the report to implement, based on the potential to influence the choices of young people to study engineering. Actions will be chosen that are able to be scaled to national, system-wide solutions.
- Jane MacMaster (Chair) – Chief Engineer, Engineers Australia
- Professor Elizabeth Croft (Deputy Chair) – Dean of Engineering, Monash University
- Professor Paul Wood AO – Board Director, ATSE
- Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith – Women in STEM Ambassador, Federal Government
- Katrina Falkner – Dean of Engineering, University of Adelaide
- Sally-Ann Williams – Cicada Innovations
- Professor Nick Birbilis – Dean of Engineering, Australian National University
For further information or enquiries, contact [email protected]
Read the full biographies of the Engineering for Australia Taskforce
Jane MacMaster (Chair)
Jane MacMaster has worked as an aerospace, mechanical and systems engineer in Australia and internationally, focusing primarily on supersonic flight vehicle design, operations research and rapid prototyping in the defence sector. She has qualifications in Engineering (Mechanical) and International Relations.
She has previously worked as a senior advisor within the strategy unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and as a management consultant. Before becoming Chief Engineer at Engineers Australia, she was Founder and Director of Ponder Enterprises, where she used her engineering skillset to develop and apply an approach for complex problem solving to address complex societal challenges.
Professor Elizabeth Croft
Dean of Engineering,
Professor Elizabeth Croft is the Dean of Engineering at Monash University. Her research in industrial robotics and human-robot interaction advances the design of intelligent controllers and interaction methods that support human-robot collaboration. She has won national and international awards for her research, advocacy for women in engineering and educational contributions.
She is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineers Australia, Engineers Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering.
Professor Paul Wood AO
Professor Paul Wood AO has led R&D teams from CSIRO, CSL and Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis) and was Deputy-Director of the Vaccine Technology CRC.
He brought several innovative products to the market, receiving recognition for his work to invent a new diagnostic test for Tuberculosis, including the CSIRO Medal, the Clunies Ross Award, and was also made an Officer in the Order of Australia. Paul is the Chair of the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines and an Insect farming start-up, on the Boards of Dairy Australia and ATSE and currently an Adjunct Professor at Monash University.
Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Women in STEM Ambassador,
Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith is the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador and a Professor of Practice at The University of New South Wales. Her role is to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies and careers in Australia by driving systemic and cultural change. As an astrophysicist, her research interests are in the birth and death of stars, cosmic magnetic fields and supermassive black holes.
Professor Harvey-Smith serves on the Australian Space Agency’s Advisory Group and previously led a team of 30 scientists and engineers at CSIRO developing the Square Kilometre Array – a next-generation radio telescope that will survey billions of years of cosmic history. She is author of the popular science books When Galaxies Collide, The Secret Life of Stars and Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime.
As the CEO of Cicada Innovations Sally-Ann leads Australia’s pioneering deep tech incubator supporting companies solving the world's most pressing problems through science and engineering. Cicada Innovations has nurtured hundreds of visionary deep tech innovators to validate, commercialise and scale high impact technologies globally across medtech, healthtech, agtech, foodtech, clean energy, AI, manufacturing 4.0, and more.
Before joining Cicada Innovations, she spent more than 12 years at Google as an Executive Program Manager on the engineering team leading work on R&D collaborations with universities, startup and entrepreneurship engagement and pioneering work on CS and STEM education, including building world-first collaborations delivering national transformation.
Sally-Ann has been involved in driving national engagement and change strategies in innovation and entrepreneurship, computer science and STEM education as a member of the COAG STEM Partnership Forum and contributed to the foundation of StartupAUS, a non-profit with a mission to transform Australia through technology entrepreneurship. She has led several cross sector working groups to drive change both in policy and cultural transformation needed to grow a thriving technology driven economy, and served on four university industry advisory boards in the engineering and computer science departments.
Sally-Ann is an experienced Non-Executive Board member currently serving on the boards Cicada Innovations, Biz Capital and AusOcean an environmental not-for-profit organisation with a mission to help our oceans through technology. She has also been a Non-Executive Director of World Vision Australia and Fishburners. She is an advisor to several state and national working groups on technology and innovation and is a mentor and advisor to industry and university incubators and accelerators including Startmate.
Sally-Ann is a frequent keynote speaker on topics such as deep tech, technology transformation, innovation and entrepreneurship, inclusion, business development, commercialisation and transformation.
Professor Nick Birbilis
Professor Nick Birbilis, was appointed Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), within the Australian National University, in October 2021. Nick previously served as Deputy Dean (and acting Associate Dean Research) with CECS from November 2018 — leading the College through an unprecedented investment to reimagine engineering, computing and technology for the 21st century.
Nick’s research is highly interdisciplinary. As a world-renowned materials engineer he is recognised for contributions in microstructure-corrosion relationships, including in the area of light alloys and additively manufactured alloys as well as 3D printing, with more than 20 associated patents.
Over the past decade, Nick has maintained a focus on transformational leadership, empowering and enabling others, whilst also creating systems and infrastructure to allow world leading research and impact. He has a strong passion for engagement and enterprise, which are critical to the function of modern universities and their role.