By Dr Troy Coyle, CEO, HERA

Dr Troy Coyle brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation management across a range of industries including materials science, medical radiation physics, biotechnology, sustainable building products, renewable energy and steel. She is a scientist with a PhD (University of NSW) with training in journalism and communications.

About two months ago – on LinkedIn – I asked men who are interested in proactively supporting women in engineering to contact me. I was surprised to receive an enthusiastic response from more than 15 men across the sector (and across the Tasman). This group started conversing and then had an online brainstorming session to narrow down its purpose. Pretty apt timing, as March is Women’s History Month and March 8 was International Women’s Day. 

The group identified a high-level purpose to focus on how men might use their influence to change the engineering environment for the underrepresented so the industry can thrive.

During this meeting, Associate Professor Enda Crossin from the University of Canterbury (soon to be an interviewee on HERA’s Stirring the Pot podcast) spoke about his work on developing the largest-ever longitudinal cohort study of engineers in Australia and New Zealand. This work was enlightening and seems (at a very early stage) to support many of the prior findings coming from studies out of the United States and United Kingdom. This includes evidence that the hegemonic masculine culture of the industry is a factor of concern. This is why it is so important for men to be active allies of women. And why it is so exciting to see a group of men put their hands up to take a leadership role to do so.

Interesting insights shared by Enda included:

  • A study of 5,992 students across University of Canterbury College of Engineering from 2005 to 2017 indicates that women from single-sex girls’ high schools are more likely to participate in engineering studies vs those from co-educational schools. This research “shows strong bias in a key educational goal across educational strategies, and may enable location of the origin of gender inequality in engineering education.”
  • A study of future teachers of children in Years 11-13 found that participants held very strong stereotypical views about who engineers are and described them as: white, male, middle-aged, good at maths and science, may be antisocial, and they design and build stuff while getting dirty.
  • The same study also identified a similar perception more broadly across society that engineering is more masculine. It concluded, “Given the strong stereotypical views about engineering from future teachers, incorrect perceptions about engineering in society and lack of engineering career and subject choice guidance available to students at school, it is not surprising that there is a shortage of females entering engineering fields in New Zealand.”

The group has agreed to meet again in late March and is working on finalising the name for the group – noting that it wants the name to call men to action without being gendered or excluding women from participating. The group continues to welcome new members and allies of women in engineering; those interested in participating are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn: