female leaders in engineering

Today, engineering is still a man’s world. Women make up only 6.59% of engineering, manufacturing and construction graduates globally, according to a 2022 World Economic Forum report. This is far from ideal. Too many women are missing out on meaningful, lucrative, and high-impact careers.

The industry is just as deprived of their potential contributions. History has shown that inventions by female engineers impact the way we live — whether that’s leading research on artificial intelligence or being the first to directly observe gravitational waves. Limiting women’s participation limits the chances of us replicating the same change-making successes.

Fortunately, the best universities across the globe recognise this and are taking steps to fill this gap through programmes that offer support, inspiration and empowerment. Here’s how these five universities are leading the way in empowering future female leaders in engineering:

The University of Melbourne

female leaders in engineering

Architectural excellence meets academic innovation at The University of Melbourne – Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, where cutting-edge design fosters future brilliance while actively empowering the next generation of female engineers. Source: University of Melbourne

Ranked #1 in Australia, #30 in the world for engineering and technology, and #8 in graduate employability ranking, the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) at The University of Melbourne has a global reputation for excellence. These accolades are fitting for a faculty that produces innovators of the future. FEIT graduates can now be found working with industry, government and entrepreneurs where they’re solving real-world challenges.

If you’re seeking to become internationally accredited engineers across 10 disciplines or to earn a specialised master’s degree to progress your career, FEIT has the programmes to turn these aspirations to reality. An engineering education is comprehensive, with your success and employability as the main focus. Through industry engagement, practical projects and the twice yearly Endeavour Exhibition (showcasing final year students’ industry and research projects to the public and industry partners), you’ll see the impact you can make in the real world, realise your career goals and share in the pursuit of engineering and technology excellence in the service of humanity.

FEIT aims to define engineering for the 21st century — and that includes fixing the gender gap in engineering. In 2021, FEIT was named “Most Encouraging Non-For-Profit Group in Gender Diversity” by Engineers Australia. The field benefits from a diversity of perspectives and expertise, which is why FEIT focuses on increasing the participation of women in engineering. Girl Power in Engineering and IT, for example, is a programme for female high school students. It includes a three-night camp at the university, work experience and mentoring opportunities.

“Our approach is based on a deep understanding of the barriers to participation and the opportunities available to female (including female-identifying and gender diverse) students and staff at various points of their career. Getting our students technically ready for careers in STEM is just one part of the equation,” shares Professor Elaine Wong, Associate Dean (Diversity and Inclusion). Click here to learn more about postgraduate engineering programmes at UoM.

Imperial College London

female leaders in engineering

Imperial College London’s beautiful campus on a sunny day. Source: Imperial College London, Facebook

Ranked third in Europe and sixth in the world (QS World University Rankings 2023), Imperial is held in high regard by many of the brightest minds. Since 1907, it has been paving the way for excellence in the fields of science, engineering, business and medicine — the only UK university to solely focus on those subjects. Much of this has to do with its stellar research impact and career-defining programmes, all of which are designed to push the boundaries of modern academia as we know it.

The Faculty of Engineering is one of three faculties within Imperial. Led by the Dean, Professor Nigel Brandon, this is the home of 10 departments that frequently excel in prominent league table rankings. Located on a single campus in South Kensington, this is a stimulating and vibrant research environment for talented students from all over the world. Here, it’s easy to collaborate across disciplines and with internationally leading researchers and scholars.

Women are supported every step of the way in this world-class institution. The Women in Engineering Network (WiN), led by Professor Julie McCann, Faculty Ambassador for Women, aims to promote a safe and supportive space within the Faculty of Engineering for female staff and PhD students to come together and expand their networks. WiN hosts termly events to hear from inspiring female engineers from inside and outside of Imperial, targeted development opportunities and networking.

In summer 2022, Brenna Parke, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Bioengineering, received funding to attend the “Monitoring Molecules in Neuroscience 2022 “conference in Lyon, France. “This conference certainly furthered my development as a scientifi communicator,

inspired me to keep pursuing a career in research and helped me forge important professional connections in academia and industry,” she says.

Johns Hopkins University

female leaders in engineering

Johns Hopkins Society of Women Engineers aims to empower women to pursue careers in STEM. Source: Johns Hopkins University

Since 1913, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Whiting School of Engineering has provided an unrivalled engineering education for over a century. JHU has been recognised as one of the nation’s top universities for engineering, according to the annual US News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. JHU School of Engineering is the first university in the nation to integrate research into its curriculum. They have now established more than 20 research centres and institutions.

JHU’s curriculum is designed to ensure that students thrive in their field of study. Flexibility, hands-on learning and mentorship are some of the elements that are emphasised in their curriculum.

Only 30% of women currently make up JHU Whiting School of Engineering. However, the Johns Hopkins Society of Women Engineers was formed to promote the endeavours of female students who are in STEM-related fields.

Collaborating with undergraduate and graduate students, professors, alumni, and industry professionals, they work together to host events and engage in outreach ventures to highlight the importance of female engineers. As part of their outreach efforts, they mentor young girls from Baltimore elementary and middle school to encourage them to pursue a career in the STEM field.

University of Auckland

female leaders in engineering

A Master of Professional Engineering (Civil) empowers students to build the world from anywhere and get a headstart in their careers as a Chartered Engineer. Source: The University Auckland

Since its inception in 1883, the University of Auckland has enjoyed a reputation as New Zealand’s largest university and pre-eminent research-led institution. Today, it is ranked 12th in Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2023, 68th in the world in QS World University Rankings 2024 (the only New Zealand university in the top 100) and joint 150th in the 2024 Times Higher Education World University Rankings (making it the top-ranked university in New Zealand).

The university is a pioneer through and through. Recently, the University of Auckland launched a globally recognised Washington Accord-accredited Master of Professional Engineering (Civil) — the first of its kind in the country. The Washington Accord is the global standard for accredited engineering degrees that provide pathways for engineers to practise as Chartered Professional Engineers (or similar), and also support the global mobility of professional engineers. This postgraduate programme will empower students to build the world from anywhere and get a headstart in their careers as a Chartered Engineer.

Engineering students are just as progressive. Sarina Todd, in her third year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechatronics Engineering, was recognised with a major award at the 2023 Blues Awards for her efforts to advance gender equity. Todd is the co-founder of Women In STEM NZ, as well as the Treasurer of the Women in Engineering Network (WEN), Vice-President of the Mechanical and Mechatronics Student Association (MECHA) and graduate of the Dean’s Leadership Programme.

The Faculty of Engineering and Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering sponsored Todd’s trip to the UNITE Camp 2030 in New York City, which brought together 150 young leaders from over 50 countries who are working towards realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to develop my leadership skills and global citizenship and look forward to continuing my service and leadership to the university as I begin my honours year,” she says.

National University of Singapore

female leaders in engineering

The College of Design and Engineering at the National University of Singapore is an exciting fusion of the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment. Source: College of Design and Engineering, Facebook

As Singapore’s flagship university, the National University of Singapore – with three campuses in Kent Ridge, Bukit Timah and Outram – attracts nearly 32,000 undergraduates and over 12,000 graduate students. Together with 30 research institutes and centres, the 13 undergraduate and four graduate schools make up this university.

The College of Design and Engineering (CDE) — a fusion of two world-renowned schools: the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment — builds on the connected disciplines of engineering, architecture and design. Through working across different domains, students get to experience a unique multidisciplinary research environment and find sustainable solutions.

Much has been done to support women in engineering at CDE. Female researchers and students were represented at the UWS STEM Fest 2022, which featured innovations from leading industry players such as Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, and Google.

Just a year before, NUS Engineering organised the “Women in NUS Engineering” event, where attendees heard the sharing of personal stories and a panel discussion featuring outstanding women alumni.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International