Kook’s journey: from building LEGO robots to giving communities power

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Did you know that globally, women make up only 15% of the engineering workforce? In Australia, 27% of the workforce across science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries is 27%, and women make up only 36% of enrolments in university STEM courses.

But the picture is changing, at least in Australia:

  • The number of women enrolling in university STEM courses grew by 24% from 2015 -2020.
  • More women were working in STEM-qualified occupations in 2020 than in 2015.
  • The gender pay gap for full-time workers in STEM industries decreased from 2020 to 2021.

 

As we approach International Women’s Day on 8 March and celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we thought it was time to chat to one of our female engineers at Mipac to get some insights into her experience as an engineer in a largely male-dominated industry.

Introducing Kook Onsanthie, Control Systems Engineer at Mipac

Mipac: Hi Kook, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us!

KO: No problem.

Mipac: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career in engineering?

KO: Engineering has been my dream since I was in high school. I had a chance to do the LEGO Robotics games like Lego Mindstorms and really enjoyed when the robot I built from LEGO building blocks worked thanks to my programming. I guess you could say I was inspired by LEGO Robotics to pursue an engineering career!

Mipac: Is there anyone who has inspired you along your journey?

KO: My uncle, who is a mechanical engineer. He had a chance to travel to several countries for inspections and testing of equipment.

Mipac: Travel is definitely part of our work here at Mipac. What battles have you faced (if any) as a female engineer out in the field?

KO: I think it depends on the culture you’re working with. In some countries, the cultural norms still dictate that women should be at home, not working in professional roles, and it’s not common to see female engineers. During one overseas project, the local workers didn’t respect me and pretended not to understand me when I asked them to complete certain tasks. It took a while for me to convince them that we were on the same team. Thankfully, this is not the case everywhere, and I do think it’s changing overall.

Mipac: How do you envisage the future of women in engineering?

KO: I hope there will be more women in engineering roles, so I have more friends! (Laughs)

Mipac: Do you have any advice for girls thinking about pursuing a career in engineering?

KO: Definitely do it! Engineering contributes to many things that make our lives better, like electricity, petrol and water for our communities. One day, when you see a project you’ve worked on, you’ll be proud to have been part of something bigger – something that makes a real difference in the world.

 

 

Sources:

Society of Women Engineers (2022) SWE Research Fast Facts

The Department of Industry, Science and Resources (2022) The state of STEM gender equity in 2022 

United Nations (2023) Secretary-General’s Message for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2023 

 

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