Making It Happen: Breaking Down Gender Barriers

The lead up to International Women's Day provided ample opportunity to celebrate the diversity in our workforce and stimulate discussion, with a sell-out International Women's Day lunch and a diversity discussion with KPMG.
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Making It Happen: Breaking Down Gender Barriers

March 8 marked International Women’s Day with the theme of ‘Each for Equal’. Engineers Australia hosted sell-out events around the country, to both celebrate the day and stimulate discussion. Keynote speaker Nadine Champion, with her motivating message of 10 seconds of courage was a hit with our incredibly diverse audience.

Over 1,000 people joined us in Melbourne to hear from Nadine and our stellar lineup of panellists, which included Lina De Zilva, Downer; Dr Airlie Chapman, The University of Melbourne; Sarah Hannah, AGL; and Stan Krpan, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Pre-polling of our audience found that 68% felt that entrenched social attitudes are a barrier to gender equity and 58% felt that male dominated boards are a barrier. Perhaps surprising only 37% thought that workplace versus domestic demands presented a barrier.

As a prelude to IWD, on 26 February Engineers Australia hosted a diversity discussion with KPMG that delved into breaking down gender barriers in engineering.

Facilitators Lucy Nitschinsk and Emma-Rose Tildesley of KPMG introduced the three pillars of Engineers Australia STEM Strategy: Build, Attract and Retain. The strategy highlights the importance of diversity in STEM and the current demand for engineering skills in the industry. Download the STEM Strategy.

This panel consisted of individuals across all three STEM pillars, providing a mixed perspective on the topic:

  • High School Education: Kristy Kendall - Principal | Toorak College
  • Tertiary Education: Prof Aleksandar Subic - Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research & Development | Swinburne University of Technology
  • Industry: Lina De Zilva - Group Manager Talent Sourcing and Diversity | Downer Group
  • Government: Antoinette Battista - Executive Director, People & Culture | Department of Transport
  • Early Career: Tica Ge - APAC Partnership Manager | Robogals Asia Pacific

The discussion covered important issues such as measures of eligibility for career recognition and progression (i.e. are quotas or targets working?), bringing males into the conversation and predictions for 2025 and beyond.

A key takeaway is we still lack representation of women in STEM, which further affects the ability to attract students into the profession who often aspire to follow visible role models. Additionally, there seems to be obscurity surrounding the engineering profession and what it entails from a primary and secondary education perspective.

Our IWD events aim to challenge our thinking, inspire change and provide an informed platform to explore how we as individuals can be a part of creating a future where women in engineering and more broadly STEM is no longer a topic of discussion. Let’s all continue to strive for #EachforEqual.

Image: Keynote speaker Nadine Champion and event attendee at the International Women's Day event, Justin Cooper photography