Queensland's leading tertiary institution is making major headway in its efforts to raise the participation of women in the engineering profession.

The Women in Engineering program launched by the University of Queensland is at the forefront of efforts to produce a more equitable gender ratio in the profession, leading to a record-breaking percentage of female engineering graduates in its inaugural year of operation.

According to figures from UQ, women comprised 24.4 per cent of the 2014 undergraduate intake, which in addition to achieving a record for the university, also places it well above averages for state and national tertiary institutions, as well as the Group of Eight coalition of leading Australian universities.

The 2014 intake figures for engineering mark a significant gain on female enrolment levels which were already quite high, reaching 21.2 per cent of new undergraduates in 2013.

According to professor Caroline Crosthwaite, acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, the Women in Engineering program serves to exemplify UQ’s commitment to addressing enduring gender disparities in the profession.

Professor Caroline Crosthwaite

Professor Caroline Crosthwaite

“UQ is committed to increasing female participation in engineering studies so that, ultimately, industry will benefit from more women pursuing engineering careers,” Crosthwaite said.

“At present, women account for less than 13 per cent of the engineering workforce in Australia, and industries that employ engineers are missing the benefits that diversity brings to technically grounded problem solving.”

Crosthwaite has strong hopes for the program’s future, aiming for a female enrolment percentage of 30 per cent within the next decade.

The Women in Engineering program is university-led initiative which enjoys funding from major industry players, including Rio Tinto, the Australian Power Institute and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

According to UQ Women in Engineering Development and Communication manager Meg Stephenson, the key to achieving such strong results in the program’s inaugural year was a focused high school outreach plan.

“In 2013, we directly engaged with more than 1600 female high school students from 47 schools through on-campus and in-school engagement,” she said. “At each of our events we drive home the message that engineering offers divers and exciting career opportunities and that a career in engineering is second to none with respect to the profound impact engineers can have on the world’s future.”