Fostering engineering careers for women

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Product Development Engineer, Karla Dey and Wellington Girls' College student, Emma Gardiner at UC's 2021 WiE CAN programme, which aims to encourage more women into engineering.

A University of Canterbury (UC) residential programme is encouraging more women into Engineering and providing a valuable link between study and career options for secondary school students.

Women in Engineering Canterbury (WiE CAN) provides 60 female Year 13 students from secondary schools across Aotearoa the opportunity to find out more about Engineering by attending a series of workshops and presentations over five days.

Wellington Girls’ College student, Emma Gardiner – who attended the 2021 programme in January – says the initiative has inspired her to pursue a career in Engineering.

“I really enjoyed the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering workshops and the aspect of making something and understanding why it acted the way it did – especially the solar car, as it was interesting to play with how the code impacted the distance the car travelled in two minutes,” she says.

“WiE CAN has helped me to decide to pursue Engineering, because I really enjoyed it and now have a much better understanding of what engineers actually do and the path to get there.”

Ms Gardiner said she was “amazed and super happy” to be sponsored by Fisher and Paykel Healthcare to attend WiE CAN, with Fisher and Paykel Product Development Engineer UC alumna, Karla Dey also presenting at the event.

“I was stoked to even get in, so to then receive a sponsorship meant so much to me. I had a great time meeting Karla as well – her job is very interesting and inspiring.”

Ms Dey understands first-hand the benefits of UC and industry taking a collaborative approach. For her Master of Engineering degree, Dey worked on a project sponsored by Fisher & Paykel Healthcare to research the efficacy of a non-invasive breathing therapy with particular focus on the delivery interface – so was thrilled to be able to present to the next generation of female Engineers.

“WiE CAN sounded like an awesome initiative to be a part of, to bring awareness of Engineering to young women. Diversity within any creative and problem-solving environment is beneficial as it allows for a greater range of perspectives which ultimately generates innovation and better solutions. I think it’s important that industry and education work together to open up a world of possibilities for all students,” Ms Dey said.

Alongside Fisher and Paykel, other organisations generously supported this year’s programme: The Tait Foundation, DIALOG Fitzroy, Oceania Gold, Davis Ogilvie, Powell Fenwick, Batchelar McDougall and Hilti all made key contributions to WiE CAN, which included sponsoring a number of Year 13 students to attend.