Women in Engineering Summit to encourage girls into industry

Teen girls with an interest in engineering are being courted by industry as part of a pitch towards greater diversity in the still-male dominated field.

The Women in Engineering Summit involves 32 area high school students and is intended to encourage their interest in joining the profession.

The five-day program began at the University of Wollongong yesterday, where organiser Montse Ros said women made up less than 12 per cent of the country's engineers.

"Women are equal users of technology and ... infrastructure and they should have an equal, representative voice when it comes to designing these things," Dr Ros told the Mercury.

The summit is led by UOW staffers and summit sponsors such as BlueScope Steel, Transport for NSW, Transgrid, Hume Coal, Adelaide Brighton, Illawarra Coal and Defence Force Recruitment.

The leaders will guide the teens through a program including visits to industries in the region.

Summit participant Aislinn Turner, a year 11 student at the Illawarra Grammar School, would be the third generation of her family to work in the field, following her father, uncle and grandfather.

She is not discouraged by the scarcity of women in the engineering workforce.

"I've always loved science, and engineering is the more practical application of science," she said.

"I think that it's important for women to be involved equally as men in all parts of society."

Molly Kirkpatrick, of Bomaderry High School, admitted the low number of women was "a little bit daunting".

"But there's lot of programs and things to get women into engineering now. I think by the time I get there it would be different."

BlueScope's plate rolling and roll shop operations manager Jillian Noads addressed students yesterday, emphasising the importance of teamwork in the field.

Ms Noads told the Mercury she had come not to notice the scarcity of women in her workplace, but she recognised numbers should be higher.

"If you get different perspectives, you get a better overall result from the team because everyone's not thinking the same way," she said.

The summit, officially opened by UOW Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings, continues until Friday.

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