One university hopes to increase the number of women in engineering, information technology and construction by giving women a boost in the scoring system used in judging applicants.
“In order to step-change gender diversity in these professions, the gender mix at undergraduate entry-level needs to change,” Arti Agarwal, director of women in engineering and IT for the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, said, according to SBS News.
The New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board is allowing the college to give women 10 bonus points, based on their gender alone, in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which ranks college applicants in comparison to one another.
Agarwal said the change helps everyone.
“We (women) ride in cars, we use public transport, we do all kinds of things,” she said. “If they are only being designed and engineered by one gender, then the requirements and needs of the other gender can get missed a bit.”
The concept drew a lot of flak on Twitter.
If you think the best way to get more women into engineering is to lower the standards, aren’t you kind of openly saying you think female engineers aren’t as good as male engineers
— Godot (@GodotIsW8ing4U) August 29, 2019
Many universities allocate adjustment points based on disadvantage or illness, but UTS Director of Women in Engineering and IT, Arti Agarwal, said she believed the university would be the first to base them on gender.
So being a woman is a disability now?
— ?shaniqua707???? (@shaniqua7071) August 29, 2019
As a woman I’m offended! This move reinforces the myth that women as not as smart as men.
— Sophie Baker (@SophiesBaked) August 29, 2019
Agarwal, however, defended the program.
“We’re not taking in underperforming students or doing tokenism here,” she said, according to The Guardian. “Nobody is getting a free pass … They all have to do all the degree requirements [and] internships.”
Agarwal said that this will bring women who enter the university to study mechanical engineering or mechatronics up to about 20 percent of offers instead of its current level of between 4 percent and 8 percent.
Engineers Australia’s professional diversity manager Justine Romanis said the college did the right thing.
“We need to be disruptive — what we have been doing to date is just not working,” she said.
Not everyone agrees.
“I don’t necessarily think that it’s the score stopping females from joining engineering, there’s more so a stigma associated with it or STEM in general,” said Virginia Singh, who graduated with a double degree in mechanical engineering and science and works in the defense sector.
STEM is an acronym used to refer to teaching science, technology, engineering and math.
“There’s a perception that you need a strong STEM and technical background and although you need that, most of the day-to-day work is soft skills as opposed to … technical calculations every day,” she said.
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