Male domination of Australian engineering academy recedes

Technology organisation says gender balanced intake is a sign of things to come

October 22, 2019
Emma Johnston
Emma Johnston

Australia’s learned society for technologists and engineers says male domination of its ranks is receding, with this year’s intake of elected fellows almost evenly split on gender lines.

Of 25 academic, industry and government leaders to be named as elected fellows of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering on 23 October, 12 are women. They include University of Melbourne biomedical engineer Sandra Kentish, University of Queensland agricultural scientist Neena Mitter and UNSW Sydney dean of science Emma Johnston, who is also president of representative group Science and Technology Australia.

The academy said their election all but met a gender equity target six years ahead of schedule. It has set a goal for women to constitute 50 per cent of elected fellows by 2025, raising its previous target of one-third of new fellows.

Vice-president Bruce Godfrey said the academy had adopted a diversity and inclusion policy in 2018 and was “working hard” to meet its aims. “We recognise that the academy’s structures need to reflect the diversity and inclusion practices that we want to promote in the Australian STEM workforce,” Dr Godfrey said.

“Increasing the proportion of women elected as fellows is an important part of that.”

Women comprised 40 per cent of the 25 elected fellows last year, up from about 30 per cent over the previous five years. Despite this, the academy’s membership remains overwhelmingly male and this year’s more balanced intake will increase women’s overall share by just 1 percentage point.

Before the addition of the latest cohort, the gender breakdown of fellows was 117 women and 755 men. But age is expected to play a role in evening the score. The academy said the average female fellow was 64, compared with 73 for the average male.

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