They are named for some of Australia’s top research leaders and exemplify commercial outcomes from research. Yet the UNSW Women in Engineering Awards night this year also showed how far there is to go in approaching gender equity in one of the most inequitable fields of employment in Australia.
While some of the world’s leading engineers – responsible for world record solar efficiencies, in high performing perovskite solar cells for example – were recognised through the awards; students, research leaders and industry also heard of the barriers that persist in recruiting young women into engineering.
Engineering skills are central to leadership – trained in analytical approaches, problem solving and focussed on the big picture, it’s a critical path for tomorrow’s leaders.
A problem of supply
In 2016 just 13% of Australian engineers were women. Many come to engineering careers through UNSW Sydney, which as the largest engineering faculty accounts for 20% of the Australian engineering graduates that fill just one-third of the 18,000 engineering positions available each year.
The UNSW Women in Engineering Awards are designed to showcase excellence in engineering and also provide clear role models for young women. The university goes to considerable lengths to improve diversity in student intakes – making individual calls to women offered places at the university to encourage them to accept the offer.
UNSW Women in Engineering Awards showcases strong role models
The Ada Lovelace Medal for an Outstanding Woman Engineer was awarded to Kathryn Fagg, Reserve Bank board member and President, Chief Executive Women. The Maria Skyllas-Kazacos Young Professional Award for Outstanding Achievement was won by Narelle Underwood, Director of Survey Operations at Spatial Services, a division of the NSW Department of Finance, Services. Prof Cordelia Selomulya, Professor, Monash University was awarded The Judy Raper Award for Leadership.
The UNSW Women in Engineering Awards are named after two of Australia’s leading engineer researchers, Maria Skyllas-Kazacos and Judy Raper.
Maria Skylass-Kazacos is one of Australia’s first female professors in chemical engineering. Judy Raper is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at University of Wollongong.
The award attributions are included below.
The Ada Lovelace Medal for an Outstanding Woman Engineer
Kathryn Fagg is a chemical engineer by training who has held technical and leadership roles in the petroleum, banking, steel-making and logistics sectors. She now serves on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, is Chairman at Melbourne Recital Centre, and holds Non-executive Director roles at Boral, Djerriwarrh Investments, Incitec Pivot and Breast Cancer Network of Australia. She also serves as President of Chief Executive Women and speaks publicly on issues relating to gender equity in business.
The Judy Raper Award for Leadership
Professor Cordelia Selomulya leads the Monash Biotechnology and Food Engineering group and is director of both the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Future Dairy Manufacturing, and the Graduate Industry Research Partnership for the Food and Dairy industry. Professor Selomulya leads the Monash Advanced Particle Engineering Laboratory in interdisciplinary research on the design of nanoparticle vaccines and mesoporous materials. She has designed a more efficient DNA vaccine delivery system for malaria using magnetic nanoparticles, revealed the role of nanoparticle adjuvants for ovarian cancer vaccines, and developed multi-stage vaccines for malaria.
The Maria Skyllas-Kazacos Young Professional Award for Outstanding Achievement
Narelle Underwood is the Surveyor-General of NSW and Director of Survey Operations at Spatial Services, a division of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. She is the first woman to ever be appointed to the role in any Australian state. As Surveyor General she is the President of the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI), Chair of the Geographical Names Board, NSW Surveying Taskforce and the Surveying and Mapping Industry Council.