AUT’s Engineering, ICT and Math Students Only 20% Female
This year only 20 percent of all students studying Engineering, Computing or Mathematical Sciences are female, according to Jenny Bygrave, Assistant VC Strategy, Students and Marketing at AUT.
In engineering degrees, the proportion of females is lower than the school overall, at 18.1 percent.
The number of females studying tech is significantly lower than the demographic of the university, as AUT’s overall student population is 61 percent female and 39 percent male (as of 31 December 2016).
However, Bygrave says the number of females studying in these fields is on the rise.
“In 2013, female students constituted 12.9 percent of total, but the proportion has grown steadily,” says Bygrave.
Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh, an AUT lecturer in Information Technology and Software Engineering Department, as well as the founder and director of women’s tech initiative She#, says there were not many females studying STEM when she was at university and still aren’t many today.
“When I was a student, I was always part of the minority, and during my Master’s Degree, I was the only female out of 50 guys in the class,” says Mahsa.
She then moved to Massey to do her PhD and was the only woman studying once again out of a class of “five or six” guys. “Then I started lecturing and saw that there is exactly the same problem happening because in a class I was teaching first semester last year, which was around 200 students, I had less than 10 girls in my class. This is less than 10 percent, and I’m just noticing things not getting any better.”
As to why Mahsa believes there are so few females compared with males in STEM fields, she believes young girls have not had enough female role models in the past.
“You can’t be who you can’t see. If you don’t have a role model – if you can’t really seesome people like you out there that are working in these fields – you can’t really imagine yourself being that person.
“And I think providing more role models and connecting girls, especially early on, is the best solution. I even think high school is too late. The 2015 OECD survey shows that in New Zealand, only three percent of 15-year-old high school girls consider tech as a career. Only three percent!”
Mahsa created the initiative She#, which aims to bridge the gender gap in STEM professions by providing networking events for women.
“And for high school girls, it’s just really to find out about what’s going on in this field, so maybe we can inspire them; maybe we can change their minds. But for me, it’s really giving them the opportunity to make informative decisions.”
Find out more about She#: www.shesharp.co.nz