International Women’s Day 2022

#BreakTheBias

On International Women’s Day 2022, how do we #BreakTheBias in engineering? Hear what our students, alumni and staff have to say.

Chhavi Khathuria

Chhavi Khathuria

Fourth-year Engineering and Law student
Chief Executive Officer, Monash Motorsport

“Start early. Reform laws. Build a better culture. Primary school students need to be shown what engineers actually do. Before they grow old enough to enter into industry, law reforms need to be discussed and implemented surrounding pay equity. Finally, workplace culture needs to allow for the creation of female STEM leaders who can then complete the cycle by becoming mentors and role models for young students.”

Emily Qiao

Emily Qiao

Final year Engineering and Commerce student
Chief Executive Officer, Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion

“We need to have the intent to #BreakTheBias. Celebrate the achievements of women who inspire you, encourage women to pursue the opportunities that present themselves, and call out gendered assumptions, whether they are unconscious or otherwise. Change begins with intention.”

Meg Panozzo

Meg Panozzo

Graduating class of 2014

“First of all: I want to say that I think we have indeed made massive strides in gender equality in engineering. But there is still work to do.

Bias is a tricky concept, because for some people it’s clear and unfortunately a part of their lived experience, and for others it’s unseen. If you have never witnessed it firsthand, thank you for reading this. It means you’re staying curious, and willing to play a part in making change.

Bias and unconscious bias are incredibly complex topics. After all, our biases are formed from our lifelong experiences, and there’s no single solution to the negative impacts caused by them. We can tackle it through system changes, like how we recruit or undertake formal training, we can work together to elevate and celebrate all people in our industry to create more role models, and we can each, as individuals, consider how we can play our part, too

As an individual, what can we do? As I’m by no means an expert, I thought I’d simply share what I do to tackle it.

I stay curious, and I stay open to always learning. I work on my self-awareness, and I do unconscious bias training so that I can understand it. And finally - this is the hardest bit - I stay open to the idea of being biased. It’s tough to acknowledge that we have biases that we don’t know about, but that first step is so important towards taking action to make change.

At the end of the day, we are all here sharing this earth, and connecting to one another as people regardless of our differences. Remember this one simple truth: you and I, we are both human. We might be different, but we’re also the same.”

Georgia Hunter

Georgia Hunter

PhD candidate, Materials Science and Engineering

“To break the gender bias in engineering we need to improve the representation of women in leadership and management roles in both university engineering faculties and in engineering industries. Improving representation in these prestigious roles will provide visible role models for young women studying and starting their career in engineering, as well as help tackle the societal unconscious bias that only men can undertake these roles.”

Yisu Wang

Yisu Wang

Graduating class of 2020

“Gender bias can happen anywhere and come from different directions. In engineering, it's a known fact that fewer women are actively contributing to the field. This is not a new topic, and it will take time and collaborative effort to address. For now, I believe we can celebrate more "Her" achievements of our brilliant forerunners and highlight their fulfilling lives and careers. We want to let any women who are currently on or about to embark on the engineering journey know that passion and persistence are the only characteristics required for success.”

Vaishali Haria

Vaishali Haria

Graduating class of 2019

“Increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles is definitely a great place to start but what next?

Personally, I would say training has an important role to play. From my experience, unconscious bias plays a huge part in gender bias. One way to tackle this is by first creating awareness of different situations in which this can occur, and then giving examples of how to overcome this. Because as it says in its name, people may not realise that they are being gender-biased in different scenarios and they may need to see examples. Once they are aware they have the ability to recognise it when it happens, allowing them to take appropriate action.

In addition to the above, sharing people's experiences of all different genders in engineering and their achievements, will help increase awareness of the amazing work they have achieved. This will create representation and assist with overcoming gender bias.”

Elizabeth Croft

Professor Elizabeth Croft

Dean, Faculty of Engineering

“There are some very simple steps we can all take right now to #BreakTheBias in Engineering: use balanced shortlists when recruiting, ensure gender balance in our leaders and advisors, and trust in the next generation.

Gender Balanced Shortlists

At Monash Engineering, we ensure our recruitment shortlists are gender balanced (with at least two women) - we know that if there is only one woman on a shortlist, it is statistically unlikely that she will be hired. By extending the search before we interview, we ensure we are finding the best candidates for the role. This technique works.

Gender Balanced Advisors

At Monash Engineering, we are proud to have met the target of 40% women on our advisory boards and councils, an improvement on 23% in 2018. Diversity in these influential roles ensures better governance. We are committed to ensuring our advisory boards and councils reflect the diversity of our community, and bring together different of skills, experiences, opinions and strategies.

The Next Generation

At Monash Engineering we have the most diverse and successful student-led clubs and teams in Australia - from XPrize winners MC^3 to Motorsport, from Solar Decathlon to Precious Plastics and everything in between!  Unsurprisingly, these fantastic clubs and teams have excellent gender equity, better even than the Monash Engineering average, and well above the national average for Engineering students in Australia. These students, our future Engineering workforce, bring ideas and experience into the workplace that will break the bias.”

Robert Koch

Robert Koch

Graduating class of 2019

“We need more women involved in the technical interview process. When interviews have panels with no diversity, it discourages candidates that are under-represented from applying for jobs in the field. By having a diverse hiring panel companies can begin to break the gender bias by demonstrating from the very beginning of their relationship with employees that their opinions and views are valued.”

Faezah Marzbanrad

Dr Faezah Marzanbad

Lecturer, Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering

“Everyone has a role to play in advancing diversity and supporting inclusion in engineering. We all have biases. These biases may be implicit, and most acts of gender discrimination are not obvious. We need to identify them, challenge and mitigate them and actively try to avoid making assumptions and stereotyping. More importantly, we must not let our biases affect our behaviour and decision-making. We can never break the gender bias unless we all try to address our own biases, and we should start addressing this as early as primary school.”

Mahdokht Shaibani

Mahkohkt Shaibani

Research Fellow, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

“In Australia, the number of women in engineering roles is low, making it difficult for girls in secondary school to imagine their future selves as engineers. They often think that engineering is mainly related to infrastructure and construction, but there are so many diverse engineering fields. To break the bias, it would be great if our high schools, with the support of our successful female engineers, would create more awareness about the simple definition of engineering disciplines. Teach our students -  what does a mechanical engineer do? What does an electrical engineer do? What does a chemical engineer do? And of course, we should teach students about the exciting potential of an engineering career.

I read a news story about a high school-aged girl who said that she was ‘pretty good at math and physics. However, she had no idea how these skills could translate into a career path. Her parents didn’t go to university, and she hadn’t been taught about the possibilities of an  engineering career at school. With a little bit of awareness, she could have been on her way to becoming a successful climate change scientist or engineer, saving lives and transforming economies.”

Anna lintern

Anna Lintern

Lecturer, Civil Engineering

“Breaking the gender bias in engineering is crucial because everyone has the right to pursue their dreams. I would like to see a world in which people have the freedom to choose what career to pursue - and can flourish in that career with no barriers - regardless of their gender."

Daniel Edgington-Mitchell

Daniel Edgington-Mitchell

Senior Lecturer,  Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Faculty Chair for Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity

“Gender bias and the resulting inequity remain the greatest structural weaknesses of the engineering profession. Some of our most talented potential engineers are being turned away from a career in this field, at a time when challenges requiring engineering solutions have never been greater.

The overt bias of conscious discrimination is easy to recognise, but the insidious prejudice of unconscious bias can be just as destructive. These biases are often deeply rooted during childhood, then subtly reinforced through lack of visible role models, representation in popular media, and a range of other cultural and environmental factors. Breaking the bias thus has no easy solution; any effort to change the perception of women in engineering is working against an incredible amount of inertia. Inertia is also on our side though; once we get things moving in the right direction, the process will accelerate of its own accord. As more women feel welcome in the field, their presence will shift both the internal culture and the perception of that culture, making the profession more attractive to the following generation.

In these relatively early stages, there is still much work to be done, and particularly when the current gender disparity is so severe, we must recognise that it is the responsibility of the majority group to effect change. Male engineers must step up and work to bring about rapid and radical shifts in inclusivity within our workplace culture.

The benefits of diverse workforces are well established, but improvements in performance should really be a secondary concern. We should break the bias not because it will make engineering better, but because it is the right thing to do. Whoever you are, if you want to be an engineer, we want to have you.

Engineering is for Everyone.”