Star students welcomed with open arms

1 Jul 2019

Australian engineering companies committed to a more equitable gender balance for the engineering industry are reaping the rewards of their efforts to help build and support the pipeline of female talent entering the field.

UQ’s Women in Engineering (WE) team has worked with engineering industry giants Rio Tinto and Ergon Energy Network and Energex, as part of the Energy Queensland Group, as well as Australian Power Institute and Powerlink Queensland to present engineering-related degrees as an attractive tertiary study option to girls in high schools across Queensland and beyond.

Support from industry partners, in the form of funding, mentorship opportunities and workforce pathways for young women striving for engineering careers, has prompted a steady increase in women participating in undergraduate engineering studies at UQ and in-turn pursuing careers in engineering.

UQ is at the head of the pack among Australian universities, increasing the number of female engineering students beginning their programs in semester one 2019 to 24.8 per cent, compared to the national average of approximately 18 per cent.

The WE program was established seven years ago, as the first of its kind in Australia, to address gender disparity at both tertiary and industry levels.

The program continues to grow: in the first quarter of 2019, the WE team and student leaders engaged with over 1000 female high school students – more than the total for all of 2017, and triple the number of the same quarter last year.

Energy Queensland’s Chief Transformation Officer, Belinda Watton said the company was proud of their efforts to inspire the next generation of engineers to work in the evolving energy industry.

“We believe for any industry to survive nowadays they need to meet and exceed the expectations of community which of course is made up of a wide demographical base,” Ms Watton said.

“We identified this many years ago and right across our business we have people of all ages, genders and from every corner of the globe in technical to senior leadership roles ensuring our business remains attuned to the community’s changing needs.”

Rio Tinto Senior Manager Strategic Mine and Resources Planning, Jo-Anne Dudley, said Rio Tinto recognised the importance of technical expertise as well as diversity in their workplaces.

“For that reason we invest in initiatives like the UQ Women in Engineering program to ensure a constant intake of quality technical people,” Ms Dudley said.

“We continue this investment once graduates join Rio Tinto, coordinating ongoing professional opportunities through our technical Centres of Excellence.”

For more information about the Women in Engineering program and how to engage with us, please visit