Revisioning the Engineering Profession: How to Make It Happen!

Revisioning the Engineering Profession: How to Make It Happen!

Judith Gill (University of South Australia, Australia), Mary Ayre (University of South Australia, Australia) and Julie Mills (University of South Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2212-6.ch008
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Abstract

Beginning with a brief account of the value of diversity and inclusivity in a globalizing world, this chapter presents an overview of the current situation of the engineering profession in some English-speaking countries. The starting point addresses the enduring difficulty encountered by attempts to increase and diversify professional engineering. Drawing on a series of studies of engineering education, engineering workplaces and people, both in Australia and beyond, this chapter outlines barriers to entering engineering for anybody other than white mainstream males. Access and retention have long been recognized as serious impediments to increasing numbers of women in engineering. The particular breakthrough in this chapter describes the ways in which some Australian women engineers are working to sustain and enrich their professional status within the workplace by developing strategies that enable them to continue as professionals without diminishing other important features of their life worlds. The implications for all sectors of education, and employers, to emerge from this study offer a basis for redesigning engineering as a more diverse and inclusive profession.
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Background

In the general move towards greater professional diversity, engineering stands out in terms of its continuance as a male-dominated profession. Firstly, engineering has been markedly slower than other professions to respond to the calls for greater diversity and inclusivity. Across the English speaking world, the tertiary enrolment statistics consistently show that women comprise less than 20% of students entering engineering (Mills, Ayre, & Gill, 2010). A recent summary of the situation in the U.S. reports:

As a society, we are barely getting started. Women earn less than 20 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. In 2014, that added up to around 19,500 out of just over 99,000 bachelor’s degrees nationwide (Crow, 2016).

Secondly, while the need for engineering to attract and retain more women as students and professionals has been increasingly recognized in the last two decades, there are increasing calls for more diversity in terms of race and background across all levels of the profession. The general need to improve was summarized most clearly in American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Engineering Deans Council’s statement of commitment to an action plan endorsed by more than one hundred Deans of Engineering:

While gains have been made in the participation of women, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans in recent decades, significant progress is still needed to reach a level where the engineering community fully embraces all segments of an increasingly diverse and vibrant society (Blaschke, 2015).

At senior levels in both university departments and professional organizations, there has been strong encouragement to diversify and to promote gender equity (King, 2012).

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