| 01 February 2020

Each for equal

Dr Bronwyn Evans, Engineers Australia CEO

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Each for Equal”.

Individually, each of us is responsible for our own thoughts, actions and choices. Collectively, we can help create a gender equal world. And an equal world is an enabled world.

Working towards equality is worth the effort! For the sake of fairness. For the sake of better solutions for our community. And for the sake of demonstrably better business outcomes.

For example, BHP’s most diverse and inclusive teams have:

  • 67% fewer recordable injuries
  • 28% fewer unplanned absences and
  • Up to 11% higher planned and scheduled work delivery.

They’ve taken many innovative approaches to increasing diversity and inclusion, as have other leading organisations in this room.

The work of engineers is vital if we are to have sustainable, secure, just, healthy and prosperous communities – and we will be more effective if we draw equally on the talents of men and women.

I often get asked what drew me to engineering. In hindsight I would say it was a combination of location, luck and my love of logical thinking.

But today is not about me and my story, it’s about all 45,000 women in Australia with engineering qualifications, the 25,000 women who work as professional engineers in this country, and the women engineers in this room.

It’s about celebrating the perspectives, leadership and skills we bring to the table.

It’s about the women who’ve gone before us, about our male and female champions in leadership, about the barriers we work to overcome and what we can do to lend a helping hand to others.

When it comes to women in engineering, the conversation has moved over the years.

First, it was all about “fixing women” – we just had to be more like the men already in the industry!

Then it was about “fixing policy”.

And, now focus has turned to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. That diversity is not just about women, but people of all backgrounds, ages and sexual orientations.

Engineers Australia has recently broadened its diversity and inclusion focus with the establishment of our Indigenous Engineers Group, our partnership with Pride in Diversity and our support of a new and just-launched independent group called InterEngineer that will promote LGBTQI+ inclusion.

Inclusion is important because, without it, you hire people who are different then lose them because they don’t “fit in”!

We have been researching the experiences of women in engineering since the 1990s.

We recently surveyed 585 women engineers at organisations signed up to the Male Champions of Change initiative. The research is yet to be published but I’ll give you a bit of a preview.

What motivated those women to become engineers in the first place?

  • Number 1: Challenging work
  • Number 2: Solving complex social, ecological and scientific issues and
  • Number 3: Earning potential.

What factors contribute to women wanting to stay with their organisation?

  • Number 1: Challenging work
  • Number 2: Passion for the profession or work and
  • Number 3: Flexible working arrangements.

What did women feel had held back their career progress?

The culture! Finding a “boys club mentality” prevailed.

Sixty-three per cent had considered leaving engineering!... and that same “boys club mentality” was the most frequently-cited reason.

Culture is the challenge. Changing culture requires leadership from the top, and indeed at all levels in the organisation, as well as persistence and focus.

Let’s focus on a culture of diversity and inclusion. Let’s celebrate, challenge, include, listen to and empower female engineers.

It’s a pleasure being in this room full of people actively contributing to a more equal engineering world.

Happy International Women’s Day!