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Establishing Women Only Positions In Engineering To Increase Gender Diversity – The Process And Results

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Women in Engineering Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.586.1 - 10.586.7



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Paper Authors

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Kanchana Jayasuriya

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Doreen Thomas

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Establishing Women - only Positions in Engineering to Increase Gender Diversity – the Process and Results

Dr Kanchana Jayasuriyaa and Associate Prof Doreen Thomas Faculty of Engineering, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia

Abstract: The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Melbourne has put in place a series of initiatives to increase the representation of women academics in Engineering. This paper describes one of these strategies, that is, the establishment of Research Fellow positions, eligible only for women, to be taken up in any one of six Departments of the Faculty of Engineering. The justification for this strategy is three-fold. Firstly, it will increase the number of women academics working in the Faculty and in the long term lead to more women in senior positions. Secondly, it will contribute to creating an academic environment that is inclusive of women, and provide role models for undergraduate and postgraduate female students. Thirdly, it will contribute to attracting more females into engineering, and in the long term increase the number of women practising as engineers who will more adequately fulfil the ‘engineering’ requirements of today’s society. In order to advertise these special positions for only women, the Faculty of Engineering was required to apply for an exemption under the State of Victoria (Australia) Equal Opportunity Act. The process of establishing these positions, the justification for the exemption, the selection of candidates, and the positive outcomes of this initiative will be explored.

Introduction and background

The University of Melbourne is committed to Cultural Diversity and Equal Opportunityb. The University has recognized that it has a responsibility to develop programs in employment, which redress where appropriate, the effects of past discriminatory practices within the community and that it has a responsibility to take positive steps to overcome inequality of opportunity. In line with these objectives, the University has also set specific performance targets for increasing the number of women in non-traditional areas. The Australian Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace (EOWW) Act (1999) and the Victorian Equal Opportunity (EO) Act (1995) have also been in existence for a number of years. Despite these affirmative action and equal opportunity policies and laws the number of women academics in Engineering remains low as shown in Table 1, which depicts the gender diversity of the Faculty spanning the years 2000 to 2004.

In 2001 the Faculty of Engineering set up a Staff Diversity Committee (SDC), with the objective of exploring the benefits of diversity and (in particular) defining ways to increase the gender diversity of Faculty academic staff. The Committee comprised of six women and three men representing the six departments of the Faculty. As the proportion of women academics (12%) within the Engineering Faculty was the lowest of any faculty at the University, the Committee attempted to understand and explain the various attitudes that the

a New address: Teaching and Learning Support, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC 8001, Australia b See

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Jayasuriya, K., & Thomas, D. (2005, June), Establishing Women Only Positions In Engineering To Increase Gender Diversity – The Process And Results Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14406

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