How Internships can Help Women Get a Start in Engineering

How Internships can Help Women Get a Start in Engineering


Women in engineering is undoubtedly an area of growth. To provide context, women are often under-represented in the fields of engineering, both in academia and in the profession of engineering.

In Australia only 12% of engineers are females, and in the US, that number lowers to just 11%. Yet the technologies that are in use every day are designed by engineers. If half of the population are females, then the female perspective is paramount in the value creation of products.

There is no fundamental rationality for this gender gap, and industry leaders are aware of this. Incentives around boosting targets, diversity and gender inclusive practices are on the rise to gradually navigate organisations towards greater gender equality – including in the awarding of engineering internships.

However, internal practices within organisations alone will not drive this change. Graduates entering the workforce are more challenged than ever during job seeking, particularly in an industry plagued by a culture of gender inequality and unconscious bias. Engineering firms are firmly positioned in the direction of removing gender bias and increasing female participation, yet with the intention of hiring females of the top performing percentile.

Incentives across career growth

A range of incentives are incrementally being built into the various stages of one’s academic and professional career. Programs as early as high school are implemented as a means of incentivising increased female participation. When entering the workforce itself, best practice within recruitment and selection for firms is looking for a mixture of strong educational background and skills drawn from work integrated learning. To posit oneself as a potential candidate, graduates are held in significantly higher regard when they have engineering internships as experience.

Vocational placement experience is not only during final rounds of recruitment and selection into engineering organisations, but early entry through scholarships is booming. Scholarship programs tailored to women also seek to identify the top performing female students on the criteria of not only educational performance but local industry experience.

The repetition in organisational measures to filter in and attract the talent of top performing female candidates is a key area for understanding. With few women making up role model titulars in the industry, female graduates in this day and age are increasingly observed and urged to lead this change.

Recognising mere achievement through academia is not enough – with recognition of attainment of experience being vital and paramount, applicants are able to showcase to employers understanding and professional development in combining soft and hard skilled experience. This background shines a light on the achievements of female candidates to senior managers, and kickstarts career prospects.

Incentives for women entering the engineering industry are vast, with long-term advantages for one’s career. This is not restricted to just engineering, but STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) for women are booming. STEM opportunities have shown to empower and motivate females throughout their job pursuits. In an industry stereotypically dominated by men, Women in STEM programs are one initiative of many to offer support to the female minority in these industries. Accessing these programs are not only necessary for each individual, but needed to help close the gap for female participation.

How should you compete?

In light of the competitive nature of the industry, graduates are looked to in order to maintain an open perspective in their journey to seek vocational placements. Engineering internships can be tailored to one’s particular field of study or discipline, with examples of mechanical, civil, structural, and electrical as the biggest market for engineering internships.

Although each individual discipline may have a range of subdivisions in other areas, as seen in the civil engineering paths of construction, geotechnics, etc., career growth can be stalled by a lack of exposure to a range of different divisions within the discipline. Boosting career opportunities starts with internships and can see graduates through the long-run of their career when supported by a variety of industry areas.

Males and females alike can benefit from the broadness of engineering internships which offer the long-term qualities of flexibility and unique knowledge for future employers. Consequently, upward trends of female participation is highly correlated with local industry experience which lends itself to the undoubted growth and opportunity available for women in engineering. Helping more women to realise their capacity for careers in engineering starts with vocational experience. Taking advantage of programs will quickly help to establish ground-breaking prospects for one’s career path; you just have to strike early in your vocation.