Uni Life

Club Spotlight: Newcastle University Women in Engineering (NUWiE)

Eight women stand in front of a balloon display

Starting university can be daunting, especially when you start on your own and without connections with your fellow students and industry. Newcastle University Women in Engineering (NUWiE) is an inclusive student society for any student who is looking for these connections. Established in 2014 by female engineering students, NUWiE creates networks and opportunities to help students thrive in engineering. Yak Writer and Designer Yasmina El Mrabet had a chat with NUWiE Vice President, Grace Gillogly to find out more about all things women in engineering at UON.

NUWiE was born out of a crucial need to address the underrepresentation of women in engineering disciplines. In 2014, a group of pioneering female students identified the gender disparity across engineering fields. Some areas, such as electrical and software engineering, had as little as 5% female representation.

Grace Gillogly, Vice President of NUWiE, explains that “Women represent 50 percent of the population in the world, and if you’ve only got half of the population designing things for the majority you’re not going to get a female perspective. It’s important to amplify the voices of women in engineering because diversity can improve outcomes.”

The club’s mission has always been clear, to provide a platform where female engineering students are supported to connect, share experiences, and be empowered to excel in their chosen fields. Over the years, it has fostered a supportive and inclusive environment for women in engineering, breaking down the barriers that may have otherwise hindered their progress.

Creating opportunities and fostering connections
A major focus of the club is connecting students with industry opportunities. Through various networking events, site visits, and collaborations, the club has successfully connected students with industry professionals, helping them gain insights into their future careers. Sponsorship from engineering firms demonstrates the mutually beneficial relationships formed through these events, as industry is keen to increase female employment.

The two flagship club events are the Cocktail Connections and Newcastle Networking Nights, attended by over 200 students and 50 industry representatives this year. These events create a bridge between the academic world and the professional realm, allowing students to gain exposure to ‘what’s out there’ in engineering jobs.

“Cocktail Connections focuses on increasing opportunities for women in industry. It helps female students get their foot in the door and explore career prospects.” Grace said.

NUWiE also organises site visits to different businesses to give students a real-world glimpse into their potential careers. Whether it is visiting Transport for NSW or other engineering companies, these visits have made students aware of how they can contribute to their chosen fields and the community.

The club’s consistent coffee catchups and study sessions encourage students to meet and build connections within the university, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support. These events provide engineering students the opportunity to have fun, network, and make lifelong friendships that go beyond the classroom.

Mentoring and inspiration
The club’s impact is not limited to creating professional connections; it is also about mentorship and inspiration. By facilitating interactions between students and industry professionals, NUWiE has helped students gain the confidence to seek internships, placements, and job opportunities. Young students can gain advice and inspiration from senior students and engineering graduates.

Grace emphasises that seeing women succeeding in the industry motivates younger students to persist with their degrees. It has shattered the self-imposed barriers that often deter women from pursuing certain paths due to feeling underqualified.

“Mentoring is vital because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Many students have attended our events and realised they didn’t know what opportunities were available to them. After talking to industry representatives, they discovered they were more than qualified,” she said.

Inclusivity: a core value
One striking aspect of the NUWiE is its commitment to inclusivity. While the club is primarily focused on supporting female engineering students, male students and faculty members are welcomed and encouraged to attend club events. In fact, most of the club’s industry events have an equal gender ratio, showing that men also recognise the importance of supporting women in engineering.

This inclusive approach has resulted in successful collaborations with other university clubs, including the Chemical Engineering Society and the Engineering Society.
Moreover, at the end of each year, all engineering clubs, under the banner of “New Alliance,” collaborate to organise the Engineering Ball, a large event that brings students and industry professionals together. This exemplifies the club’s dedication to promoting collaboration and unity among students pursuing various engineering disciplines.

The road ahead
NUWiE upcoming end-of-year Engineering Ball on November 25th promises to be an unforgettable night of celebration and networking.

Looking to the future, the club has exciting plans. Their signature event, ‘Cocktail Connections’ is set to return, promising to be bigger and better. Site visits to businesses and collaboration with other university clubs will continue to create more opportunities for students. The club also aims to host more informal events where students can engage with industry professionals on a personal and casual basis, fostering meaningful connections.

NUWiE also sets its sights on the tenth-anniversary celebration, which promises to be a significant milestone in its journey. With their commitment to inclusivity, mentorship, and empowerment, the club will make an even greater impact in the years to come.

Feature image provided by NUWiE

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