Engineers Australia Tasmania has announced the recipients of the 2023 Driving Diversity Scholarships for women in engineering.
First year university students Saxon Schapel, Australian Maritime College and Kirra Steel, University of Tasmania were awarded scholarships worth $5000 to aid in their studies.
Engineers Australia Tasmania General Manager Darren Beattie said these scholarships are sponsored by Hydro Tasmania and Caterpillar.
“This year Hydro Tasmania and Caterpillar have provided scholarships for a young woman entering her first year of an engineering qualification,” Mr Beattie said.
“Australia needs to increase the participation and retention of women in engineering. While engineering is the largest employer of the STEM professions, engineering has the lowest representation of women of the STEM professions with women making up just 14 per cent of the Australian workforce,” Mr Beattie said.
“Research shows diversity leads to improved decision making. In engineering these decisions can have significant impacts on society by leading to greater innovation, improved products and services and solutions.”
For Saxon Schapel, recipient of the Caterpillar Driving Diversity for Women in Engineering Scholarship, the road to engineering was set with both her father and grandfather being engineers. She remembers going to the Science Expo in Adelaide with her father when she was just four years old.
“We have photos of me soldering an LED torch and I can remember thinking, this is so cool,” Saxon recalled.
“I kept going through school because I liked making stuff. At high school I picked all the tech subjects and maths because they were so enjoyable.”
Saxton is in her first year studying maritime engineering at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston.
“I chose to come to university in Tasmania because it has the AMC. I also picked it after entering the 2019 Subs & Schools competition. I met my mentor Phillip Walker there, who is part of the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC). And my dad, who is an electrical engineer also works the ASC.”
Saxon said the Scholarship will greatly assist her time at UTAS.
“The funds will make it easier to focus on my studies and with help with living expenses.”
Kirra Steel has been awarded the Hydro Tasmania Driving Diversity for Women in Engineering Scholarship. Her interest in engineering was also sparked at a young age.
“I grew up at Bell’s Beach down the Great Ocean Road and last year became very interested in coastal erosion and creating infrastructure that would be compatible with the environment,” Kirra said.
“I saw the need for a solution when my surf club at Jan Juc had the beach entrance washed away and we couldn’t get our IRBs (inflatable craft) into the water.”
Kirra said the scholarship means she will be able to spend more time on my studies.
“I also hope to join some environmental and coastal groups on the East Coast.”
At the presentation Don Emmerton, Caterpillar’s Engineering Manager, acknowledged the need for a more diverse workforce.
“Caterpillar is excited to be involved again this year in offering a Driving Diversity for Women in Engineering Scholarship to a first-year female engineering student,” he said.
“Gender diversity is an important aspect of helping ensure we build the best team. It’s through diverse thinking, ideas and experiences of our people that strengthen our team. We want to encourage women entering the engineering field to help drive those creative and innovative ideas. Caterpillar is once again delighted to be involved with Engineers Australia and Hydro Tasmania in making these scholarships available to enable women pursuing a career in engineering”.
After presenting Kirra with her scholarship Hydro Tasmania CEO Ian Brooksbank echoed the importance of supporting women in the early stages of their engineering journeys.
“In Hydro Tasmania’s sixth year of supporting the Engineers Australia Driving Diversity for Women in Engineering Scholarship, I was so pleased to award this to Kirra Steel,” he said.
“Speaking with Kirra today, her passion for engineering and environment in a changing climate is obvious, and we hope this scholarship will help her in balancing her study with her cocurricular activities.
“Initiatives like these, and the networks that they help create for young women in STEM, are so critical to ensuring better gender diversity in fields like engineering. We hope that we can continue to encourage this change for the better.”