Gender diversity celebrated at annual Women in Engineering awards ceremony

UNSW’s Women in Engineering Awards are presented by UNSW Engineering, and support a wider campaign to attract more female high school leavers to consider engineering as their preferred career.

Professor Mark Hoffman (Dean of Engineering), Kathryn Fagg (winner of the Ada Lovelace Medal) and Professor Ian Jacobs (President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney).

“To say it is an honour is an understatement,” says Narelle Underwood, Surveyor-General of NSW and Director of Survey Operations, on winning The Maria 

Skyllas-Kazacos Young Professional Award for Outstanding Achievement at the UNSW Women in Engineers Awards ceremony. The awards were held at The Mint in Sydney on the 17 August.

“There are many incredible young female engineers from UNSW who have made outstanding achievements in their careers. I love my job and the pathway that my career has taken, so while it’s taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get where I am today, to have my accomplishments acknowledged in this forum is a true honour,” Underwood continues.

Underwood graduated from UNSW in 2009 with a Bachelor of Engineering First Class Honours in Surveying and Spatial Information Systems and the University Medal. She is also the first woman to ever be appointed to the role of Surveyor-General in any Australian state.

“Narelle Underwood has blazed an outstanding trail for the female engineers that follow in her footsteps, and we are proud to present her with this award for her commitment and passion for her profession,” says Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of UNSW Engineering.

The two other awards presented at the ceremony were The Judy Raper Award for Leadership, won by Professor Selomulya, leader of the Biotechnology and Food Engineering Group ; and The Ada Lovelace Medal for an Outstanding Woman Engineer, won by Kathryn Fagg, an experienced Non-Executive Director and current President of Chief Executive Women.

“The incredible calibre of the nominations we received this year is all the evidence you need to show that women are making truly valuable contributions to the engineering industry. It’s so inspiring hear them talk about their lives and careers,” says Dr Alex Bannigan, Manager of the UNSW Women in Engineering program.

“These awards are part of a concerted strategy to attract more women into engineering that includes the annual Women in Engineering Camp, for 100 young women in years 11 and 12, and the establishment of 42 Women in Engineering scholarships worth a total of $1.6 million,” Dr Bannigan adds.

Winner of The Judy Raper Award for Leadership: Professor Cordelia Selomulya leads the Biotechnology and Food Engineering group at Monash University, which has an internationally recognised reputation in drying-technology research. As director of both the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Future Dairy Manufacturing and the Graduate Industry Research Partnership for the Food and Dairy industry, she closely collaborates with organisations throughout the international dairy industry. She also leads Monash’s Advanced Particle Engineering Laboratory, is an ARC Future Fellow, and is an Adjunct Professor at Soochow University. Professor Selomulya holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and PhD from UNSW.

Winner of The Ada Lovelace Medal for an Outstanding Woman Engineer: Kathryn Fagg is a highly regarded and extraordinarily successful professional. A chemical engineer by training, Fagg has built a substantial and impressive career in the male-dominated worlds of petroleum exploration, steel making, logistics and banking.

Having started her career with ExxonMobil, Kathryn moved into consulting with McKinsey and Company before entering the banking sector, most recently as Managing Director, Global Transaction Services at ANZ. Returning to her industrial roots, Kathryn later took up multiple senior roles at BlueScope Steel, and was then President, FMCG and President, Corporate Development at Linfox. She serves on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, is Chairman at Melbourne Recital Centre, and holds Non-Executive Director roles at Boral, Djerriwarrh Investments, Incitec Pivot and Breast Cancer Network of Australia.

Throughout her career she has been an active role model for women in business, serving as the President of Chief Executive Women and speaking publicly on issues relating to gender equity in business. As a highly successful woman, engineer and businesswoman, she has used her influence to smooth the way for women following in her footsteps. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Queensland and a Master of Commerce from UNSW.

Professor Hoffman, who became Dean of Engineering in 2015, has set a goal to raise female representation among students, staff and researchers to 30% by 2020. Currently, 25% of first year UNSW engineering students are, which is up from 21% in 2015.  

“Since 2013, when the program started, we’ve had a 48% increase in number of women starting first year engineering, and its accelerating with three quarters of that increase in the past two years,”

“We’ve quadrupled the number of girls attending our annual Summer Camp to more than 100” says Professor Hoffman.

One of these female students is Riya Dalal, who is currently in her third year at UNSW, studying Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. Dalal summed up the importance of UNSW’s Women in Engineering Program in her speech at the awards:

“It’s so important for the world to recognise the achievements of the women we have here tonight. Young engineers like myself see established women in the field and are hopeful for the future. It is great to be part of breaking down barriers.” 

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