Australian university prioritizes women applicants to combat gender disparity in certain fields

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SYDNEY, Australia — A university in Australia is combating gender inequality by adjusting the admission requirements for women applying for engineering, IT, and construction management degrees starting in 2020.

University of Technology Sydney said a statement that they believe these areas of study have a “woman problem” and they intend to do something about it.

Administrators will give a 10 point adjustment on the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank — Australia’s version of the SAT — so that even if the women applying for these degrees are a few points from the acceptance rank they can get into the program. The university is hoping that this adjustment will encourage more women to apply to study engineering, IT, and construction.

About that “women problem”

Women make up 58% of all Australian undergrads, but less than 28% of the roles in these industries are held by women, the university says. Construction has the lowest percentage at 11%.

“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,” said Arti Agarwal, Director UTS Women in Engineering and IT.

The university said that the adjustment will not lessen the requirements of students being admitted because all students “must satisfy the same degree requirements of examinations, tests, studios and internships.”

Fifth year Civil and Environmental Engineering student, Jessica Massih supports the decision and said, “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. Getting there is just the start.”

One of the main controversies is if the rank adjustment is discriminatory. UTS said that the idea was approved by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board for a 10 year exemption because the program “helps redress past or present discrimination.”

UTS is not the only university in Australia to adjust ranks for purposes of inclusion in a particular area. Several universities have the same exemption for different reasons including religious affiliation and ethnic diversity.

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