on June 12th, 2020

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is committed to encouraging women to join the engineering industry and supporting our students throughout their respective journeys.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum released reported that while approximately 20% of engineering graduates are women, only 13% of the engineering workforce is female. While the industry is still very much dominated by males, it is still worth reflecting on the work that has already been done by females to change this, one step at a time.

Australia’s first female electrical engineer, Florence Violet McKenzie, had an incredible career that was characterized by her contribution to encouraging women to become engineers, and for her wireless communication efforts in World War II.

In the early 1930’s she was the only female member of the Wireless Institute of Australia, which is where she took her electrical wiring knowledge and expanded on that by studying the chemistry of television. She joined the Women’s Engineering Society — the only society in the world, pushing for the representation of females in the engineering industry — and from there, she founded an educational initiative named the Electrical Association for Women.

When the war broke out, she used her qualifications and teaching skills to form the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps, to help women become skilled in wireless communications, which would assist the military in the war. She and some of her trainees managed to form the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) – this was the first time that women were allowed to join the navy, and the urgent need for telegraphists meant they were relied upon heavily. By the end of the war, WRANS represented 10% of the entire Royal Australian Naval Force.

By training up thousands of women in telegraphy, Florence paved the way for women to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) industries.

EIT wants to continue creating female spiritual successors of Florence Violet McKenzie in the modern engineering world. We hope to cultivate the engineering skills of school leavers and already-working engineering professionals and help elevate them into long-lasting engineering careers.

One of those ‘spiritual successors’ is EIT’s Student Ambassador for 2020, Mildred Nanono. She is a Control and Instrumentation Engineer at Eskom Uganda Limited (EUL), who completed her Master of Engineering (Industrial Automation) with us in 2018.

She said she finds pride in her work, which involves keeping the lights on for 40% of the Ugandan nation.

“I had always wanted to be part of a team, contributing to the power sector. Given the small number of ladies in the sector, I was motivated to join the male-dominated field to make my contribution toward national development,” Mildred said.

Tough times call for innovative measures

EIT has continued to deliver courses as usual throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many institutions being forced to close, thanks to our revolutionary online training methodology that we have developed over the past 15 years.

With our practical online learning model, there is no reason why educating women in engineering has to cease just because of tough times — something Florence Violet McKenzie masterfully demonstrated during World War II.

EIT’s Deputy Dean, Indumathi V, is a shining example of a woman who is ceaselessly passionate about engineering education and ensuring women feel empowered enough to consider a career in the industry.

“I am a strong advocate for girls and women in engineering, also encouraged by being a mum of two young girls and a boy myself. I strongly believe that it is important for young girls from a schooling age to be aware of the various career options and study pathways available to them and to ensure they understand that they are capable of taking on technical roles and STEM fields,” she said.

If you are looking to study engineering and have identified a course you think would be perfect for growing your skills, you may be eligible for a scholarship. Women studying our higher education degrees can apply for our Women in Engineering scholarship. If successful, you will receive mentorship from one of our female engineers, plus a financial incentive. Both current and prospective students can apply for these scholarships.

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