A software engineer from the United States, Isis Anchalee, recently sparked debate about gender representation through a post on social media using the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer in response to negative comments about an ad campaign she featured in. Her campaign shows there’s still a way to go to change people’s mindset about engineering.

Though women make up more than half the population, only about one in ten engineers are female. And while the UOW has seen a lift in female engineering students this year from 10.7 to 12.6 per cent, UOW engineering students Jessica Davis and Kate Menzies say the most important aspect to increasing female participation is changing the mindset about engineering. 

"What appeals to a lot of girls is the humanitarian aspects and feeling like you’re making a difference to the world,” Jessica told ABC Rural “We need to be getting younger girls to think about engineering as something they can do. Some subjects are challenging but you can do it.” 

LISTEN: Jessica Davis and Katie Menzies talk about Engineering at UOW on ABC Rural radio...  

Jessica – a fourth year civil engineering student from Wagga Wagga – began breaking down gender stereotypes when she spent her gap year working as a fencer on a Hume Highway bypass project. 

“I was freezing cold building all the fences and watching all the engineers in their HiLuxes reading their magazines, and supervising. I thought 'I'd rather be the supervisor than the worker’. I also loved the fact that the product of your work is tangible.”  

WATCH: Jessica Davis talks to WIN News about women in Engineering at UOW...  

The need for engineers is expected to rise in the coming decades, as Australia's workforce transitions.Engineering has long been a male dominated field - but there is a growing number of women looking to break the mould.

Posted by WIN News Illawarra on Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Kate Menzies, from Condobolin in central west NSW, chose engineering after initially wanting to study physiotherapy. 

“I really love maths and realised that engineering was essentially the practical application of maths. My maths teacher in school had told me this but I kind of ignored it,” Kate said. 

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Since she started her degree Kate has worked with the 40K Globe program, which helps Australian university students getting a practical experience in an unfamiliar environment and culture and assigns them projects with social benefit.

“I went to India with 40K to work on their water impact project … The project was very rewarding and an eye opening way to see how engineering can improve communities.” 

Both students helped start the Women in Engineering Society at UOW. 

"When I was in year 10, 11 or 12, I was pretty naive and didn't really know what engineering was." Jessica said. "We're pretty passionate about balancing the gender in engineering, IT, maths and physics."
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Originally published as Female Engineers Breaking The Mould on 17 August 2015.