UOW-based Women’s Research Engineers Network to expand into ASEAN Countries

UOW-based Women’s Research Engineers Network to expand into ASEAN Countries

Early-career researchers supported to collaborate with Southeast Asian universities

Founded in 2021 by early-career researchers from the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences (EIS), the Women Research Engineer’s Network (WREN) aims to narrow the gender gap in engineering research careers.

WREN was launched by Dr Marcella Bernardo Papini, Dr Mainã Portella Garcia, Ms Grace Kennedy, Dr Emily Yap and Dr Ashley Ansari, with the financial support from the Council on Australia-Latin America Relations as a bilateral collaboration between Australia and Brazil.

In just a year, WREN has grown to a network of over 250 researchers, has hosted five online events, built an online collaboration portal, submitted five grant applications and seeded co-teaching collaboration.

Now, with a grant from Australia-ASEAN Council secured, WREN will expand to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam through a webinar and podcast series.

The grant from The Australia-ASEAN Council was awarded to projects that address the needs of Southeast Asian countries following the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on women's empowerment in the region.

The grant will enable WREN to:

  • increase knowledge of research techniques and technologies, and international research funding opportunities;
  • increase participation in WREN’s online space across the region, leading to joint research projects, publications and the submission of grant proposals;
  • build collaborative teaching opportunities between women academics in engineering disciplines;
  • report on the similarities and differences of the challenges women academics experience in Australia and Southeast Asia;
  • build strategies to ensure the retention and progression of women in engineering throughout their careers;
  • create mentorship opportunities by connecting academics with undergraduate and postgraduate students across borders.

Dr Marcella Bernardo Papini said that one barrier contributing to the under-representation of women in academia is the lack of international opportunities, which most affects early-career researchers.  

“This funding from ASEAN will help expand WREN to universities in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia to increase collaboration between early-career women research engineers,” Dr Papini said.  

Dr Grace Kennedy explained that while there is an increasing understanding of gender equality, achieving a balanced workplace is not a problem to be solved by women alone. Instead, it requires the efforts of entire workplaces to strive together.

“WREN seeks to highlight the inequalities and barriers to career progression while giving its members support to overcome these barriers,” Dr Kennedy said.

Dr Emily Yap, a Research Engineer at the Industry 4.0 Hub and a committee member of WREN, said that the organisation welcomes anyone who wants to make engineering more inclusive to become a member.

“We have many interesting events planned for this year. To stay up-to-date about WREN’s events, sign up on our website.”

For four consecutive years, the University of Wollongong has been named among Australia’s most inclusive employers for its commitment to gender, sex and sexuality diversity, receiving an Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) 2022 Bronze Award.

WREN aligns with UOWs commitment to UN Sustainability Development Goal 5 – to achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women.