This top university is giving women 10 bonus points on their ATAR if they apply for STEM degrees like IT or engineering

The University of Technology Sydney is taking action on gender equality. Image: UTS.
  • Female school leavers applying for undergraduate degrees in engineering, IT and construction at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will be given an extra 10 points on their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.
  • The move is designed to increase the number of women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector, both in education and in the workforce.
  • According to UTS, women make up only 13% of the engineering workforce, 28% of IT roles and 11% of positions in the building and construction sector.

Women who apply for undergraduate degrees in engineering, IT and construction at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will be given extra points toward their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) as the university aims to boost the number of women in Australia’s STEM sector.

Women who apply for undergrad degrees in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology or apply for the construction degree in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building will get 10 adjustment points on their score, giving them an extra lift up if they are gunning for a spot at the university.

While adjustments won’t change your ATAR, it will change your selection rank when you apply for uni, meaning you stand a chance of getting into one of those STEM courses at UTS if you were just a few points shy.

UTS told Business Insider Australia in an email that in order to be eligible for the adjustment points, applicants “must be a female domestic student who has achieved a minimum ATAR of 69.00 (not including any other adjustment factors) applying through the Universities Admission Centre.” They also have to satisfy all the other application requirements in the course description.

The move is designed to get more women to consider degrees and careers in industries that have been male-dominated for years.

According to UTS, women make up only 13% of the engineering workforce, 28% of IT roles and 11% of positions in the building and construction sector. These stats are even worse when you consider that women make up more than half of all Australian undergraduate students (58%).

Arti Agarwal, Director of UTS Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT) said there has been little progress in the number of initiatives designed to support more women in engineering, IT and construction. The WiEIT program provides weekly drop-in sessions for students, networking events and a mentoring program that pairs students with industry experts.

“We need our education institutions to encourage girls and women at all levels, and create a stronger ‘pipeline’ to acquire the skills and knowledge to build successful careers in dynamic areas,” she said in a statement.

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board approved the extra points and the process will be available for the 2020 intake of students.

Keeping women in STEM positions

The Australian Academy of Science, together with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering developed a ‘Women in STEM Decadal Plan’ to attract and keep women in STEM industries.

Unveiled in April 2019, the plan calls for a “bold” and “sustained” effort across the whole STEM ecosystem to keep women in those industries. And that, of course, includes the education sector.

Justine Romanics, National Manager for Professional Diversity and STEM at Engineers Australia said, “We need to be disruptive – what we have been doing is not working.”

“It’s time to flick the switch. We need to show the benefits that greater diversity will create for everyone – for individuals, for teams, for organisations, for the profession.”

According to the Decadal Plan, the STEM gender gap becomes measurable in high school. In the final year of high school, the report said more young men choose to study advanced and intermediate maths, physics and chemistry compared to young women.

That trend then continues into tertiary education, with women becoming underrepresented in certain STEM courses. According to the report, they account for less than 25% of participants in engineering, computing, physics and astronomy.

Once women finally get into the STEM workforce, they are hampered by systemic barriers such as gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment and gendered expectations around caring responsibilities.

“All of these issues combine to lead to a significant reduction in the proportion of women at every stage of professional progression in STEM fields, particularly in research and industry,” the report said.

And amid all the challenges women face in the sector, the report said one of the main reasons they choose to leave is lack of career progression.

Jessica Massih, a fifth year Civil and Environmental Engineering student from UTS, said supporting young women into tertiary studies and while they are studying, helps them believe they have a role in the industries.

“Once you are at uni, you have to do the same subjects, same assignments, and work just as hard to get good grades and opportunities,” she said in a statement. “Getting there is just the start.”

So for the young women already working hard to get a spot in engineering, IT or construction degrees at UTS, the extra points will be the icing on the cake.

And hopefully they can stay the course once they’re in.

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