Equality? No thanks. Women at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will be able to enter engineering and construction degrees with a lower score on an admissions test than their male counterparts.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that UTS will allow women to enter engineering and construction degrees with a lower score on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) than male students. Women can score 10 points lower than men and still be admitted into the degree programs.
As the Herald reported, many universities in the country “allocate adjustment points based on disadvantage or illness,” but UTS appears to be the first one to make the adjustment based on gender. As one can guess, the move to lower the entry bar for women is being done in an effort to get more women into engineering.
Dr. Arti Agarwal, director of women in engineering and IT at UTS, told the Herald that admitting women into the programs — even with lower entrance scores — would make the world a better place.
“Lots of research has shown that teams are more productive when they are gender balanced. They come up with better ideas and better solutions,” she told the outlet. No such research was cited.
“We (women) ride in cars, we use public transport, we do all kinds of things,” she added. “If they are only being designed and engineered by one gender, then the requirements and needs of the other gender can get missed a bit.”
Because women weren’t entering certain engineering degrees, such as mechanics and mechatronics, according to the Herald, the entry bar needed to be lowered. Just 4% of participants in the stated programs were women.
Agarwal told the Herald that the lower bar for women was expected to increase female participation in the programs by 10%. She also emphasized that even though the entry bar was lowered, women would still have to complete the programs just as men do.
“The decision would not lower the quality of the graduates,” she told the outlet. “I really cannot stress this enough – we are not taking people who don’t deserve to be here.”
If women require a lower score to get into the programs, however, it would only be a matter of time before program standards are lowered for them as well. Once women struggle to complete the degree, will the university accept that women generally just aren’t that interested in STEM fields?
One female engineering student insisted to the Herald that the lower acceptance score was not a “handout” but “a hand up.”
“I hope it does [act as an incentive]. They will still be able to prove themselves throughout the degree by doing just as well, if not better,” she told the outlet.
Andrew Norton, director of higher education at the Grattan Institute — an Australian public policy think tank — told the outlet that women leave STEM fields because of the male-dominated workplaces.
“It’s a very male-dominated workplace, and work we did recently showed that even when women have the qualification they don’t work in the area because of the nature of the workplace,” he told the Herald.
Women also leave STEM fields to focus more on their families, or for less demanding careers.