Women engineers bridging the gender gap

by Angus Jones

A group of women engineers at Hatch is actively working towards bridging the gap between myths and truths about the profession in an effort to improve the representation of women in the industry. 

Daphne Wong and Bethany Smith are engineers at Hatch, a multidisciplinary leader in engineering, project management, and professional services with projects in the metals, energy and infrastructure industries. Hatch is committed to supporting female engineers through its diversity and inclusion programs. Daphne is a Process Engineer specialising in Hydrometallurgy and Bethany a Senior Mechanical Engineer. Thea Kurniawan, a fellow engineer that was previously from Hatch, is currently practicing her career as a Technology Lead in Tunas Resin a Polymer Chemical Manufacturer in Indonesia.  

A new study developed by the engineering trio and titled ‘Debunking Myths of Women in Engineering’ found that 54 per cent of adults believe the engineering field is male dominated and 22 per cent hold reservations about it being female friendly. Among students aged 16-18, 62.5 per cent are enrolled in at least one STEM subject in high school, however, the motivation for them was to meet university prerequisites and enhance high school grades, rather than a pure genuine interest.   

The trio have proposed pathways to improving the general public perception around women engineers by debunking misconceptions around female careers in the industry.

Daphne says: “Contrary to common misconceptions, engineering is a dynamic and versatile profession. It does not confine professionals to physical locations, with many engineering tasks taking place in offices or from the comfort of one’s home. The image of engineers in hard hats and steel-capped boots is outdated, as engineers work on a wide range of design, construction, testing, operation, and maintenance tasks across various industries.

“Furthermore, engineers do not need to be math geniuses to excel in their roles. Some engineering positions are highly technical, while others are more project management-oriented, requiring varying levels of mathematical involvement.”

Bethany says: “It can be easy to forget that engineers develop products used by the masses, which means that beyond considerations of equity, diversity in engineering offers a multitude of benefits for enhanced productivity, innovation and fresh perspectives that lead to better products for everybody.”

There are more engineering specialisations now than ever before. The digital revolution saw the definition of engineering branching out, with contemporary infrastructure like software, hardware, data and business processes often managed by engineers.[1]

Engineering skills are highly versatile and transferable. The professional, scientific and technical services (PSTS) industry, for example, employs almost one-quarter (23%) of all working STEM graduates, while the education and training industry employs the second largest percentage (10%) of STEM graduates.[2] 

Daphne says, “The key message is that each one of us, regardless of gender, can play a role in reshaping the perception of engineering. This shift will not only benefit women but also foster innovation and productivity in the field.”

Daphne and Bethany have had the opportunity to attend international conferences, enhancing their visibility and actively engaging in initiatives to improve the landscape for women in engineering. Hatch also takes part in university and high school engagement programs, such as the Girls Engineering Tomorrow events. On International Women’s Day, Hatch celebrates by organising an in-house panel session for women engineers, sponsoring applications for industry mentorship programs, such as WIMWA (Women in Mining WA), as well as the AusIMM. Their colleague and industry peer, Helen Adamson, a Process Engineer, Hatch Associate, and Office Lead of Hatch’s Perth office, spoke at the AusIMM’s International Women’s Day event series this year.

Proudly, Hatch was this year named one of Australia’s Top Graduate Employers by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers for the sixth consecutive year for its ‘graduate first’ approach to internal development.   

Daphne shared her view on the mission of reshaping perceptions: “Our goal is to bridge the gap between myths and truths about women in engineering, making the field more inclusive. As a final challenge, we invite engineers to share their stories, and non-engineers to seek out these narratives. The International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists (INWES) offers a toolbox for sharing experiences, allowing all of us to be part of the narrative reshaping, creating a more diverse and equitable future for engineering.”

The journeys of Daphne, Bethany and Thea are an inspiration to aspiring female engineers and demonstrate what can be achieved when breaking down gender barriers and promoting inclusivity within the engineering industry.

Daphne, a disciplined and driven process engineer, has created a niche for herself in the lithium mining industry. Her career is driven by an interest in fostering diversity and gender equality in the workplace. Bethany, a highly accomplished mechanical engineer, has made a significant impact in the field, with a wealth of experience in design, project engineering, hydraulic design, and contributions to option/value-improvement studies and research and development work. She is also a mentor for aspiring female engineers. Outside of work, Thea enjoys researching the latest innovations in polymer chemistry, and managing TEDxUWA, one of Australia’s first and only fully youth-operated TEDx organisations based at the University of Western Australia.

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