UC Connect public talk: Women on the cutting edge of engineering

01 August 2019

In her upcoming UC Connect public talk, University of Canterbury Engineering Professor Philippa Martin will look at the every day reality for many women in engineering. In particular, she will look at the impact of the thousand ‘paper cuts’ many women experience before even graduating.

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It’s hard to believe that, in this ‘smart’ technology era, it is still controversial for a woman to be an engineer. While a Google software engineer’s 3300-word manifesto that women’s stronger interest in people and “neuroticism” make them less naturally suited to being coders got him fired, the impact of such beliefs is significant. Statements that women are “not biologically suited” to engineering and computer programming have a powerful impact.

Tech jobs continue to be heavily skewed male. In 2014, Apple’s diversity report indicated the same global gender ratio as Google, with 30% female, 70% male employees. When broken down into roles specified as ‘tech’ that ratio changed to 80% male and 20% female at Apple, while tech roles at LinkedIn were 83% male and 17% female, and Twitter techies were 90% male and 10% female.

Reflecting this, we see low enrolment of young women in engineering at tertiary level, gradually heading up to 20%, however some disciplines can be as low as 0% in a given year. As a result, there are calls for a more diverse engineering workforce and student population.

In her upcoming UC Connect public talk, University of Canterbury Engineering Professor Philippa Martin will look at the every day reality for many women in engineering. In particular, she will look at the impact of the thousand ‘paper cuts’ many women experience before even graduating.

Professor Martin will consider whether a diverse engineering workforce/student body is crucial for engineering advancement or whether it is a case of increasing numbers and challenging gender and cultural stereotypes.

Dr Philippa Martin was the first female professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the second female engineer to be promoted to the rank of professor in over 130 years of engineering at UC. She is also the Dean of Engineering (Intermediate). Her research interests include: telecommunications, digital communications, wireless communication, coding theory, decoding algorithm design, signal processing, cognitive radio, relays and cooperative communication, space-time coding, mmWave communications and ultra-wideband communication.

UC Connect public lecture: Women on the cutting edge of engineering, presented by Professor Philippa Martin, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UC Engineering, 7pm – 8pm, Thursday 8 August, 2019 in C Block Lectures theatre, University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus, Christchurch. Register to attend free.

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