Earlier this year Young Engineers Australia National Committee conducted a survey of the engineering industry to elicit views on being Chartered. The committee is pleased to announce that there was an overwhelming response to the survey with over 5,500 responses received. Thanks to all who responded and took part in this survey.
Those who participated had the chance to win an iPad by answering the question:
"What can Engineers Australia do as an organisation to achieve higher recognition of Chartered Engineers/Technologists/Officers within the community?"
Some common themes arose including:
The winners of the iPads, based on their responses to the above, were Rebecca Latimer and Justin Sazegar. Discussion forums were also held at most Division offices and an iPad was again awarded to the best response to the above question. This winner was Leon Czechowicz.
The findings from the forums and survey will be provided to Engineers Australia Council for action. If you would like to have your say or additional input please email firstname.lastname@example.org or reply to this blog.
Canberra Representative, Young Engineers Australia National Committee
Since Young Engineers Australia’s inception it has been common practice for students to vote and hold office bearer positions on Young Engineers Australia (YEA) committees. It was recently brought to the attention of the Young Engineers Australia National Committee (YEANC) that there was a question over whether students were, in fact, both eligible to vote in such elections and to hold office bearer positions on YEA committees.
YEA has sought consultation from its members as well as Engineers Australia staff on this matter over the last few months and I am pleased to be able to report that we have resolved the issue. The matter was considered by Council at its August meeting. Council wish to support YEA initiatives, particularly in fostering the interest of engineering students in Engineers Australia. It was resolved that student members of YEA may continue to vote at internal YEA meetings and hold office on YEA committees.
This is a very positive result, and I thank all of those who provided feedback.
Dr Jessica Andrewartha
Chair, Young Engineers Australia
Young Engineers Australia has recently been getting involved in the Year of Humanitarian Engineering. The YEA national committee (YEANC) was a focus group for a workshop on corporate social responsibility in Melbourne in early July, which was followed up by four YEANC members attending the Australian Humanitarian Engineering Summit in Brisbane in late July.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept with many definitions. Some describe it is ‘A concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis’ or ‘doing the right thing, even when no-one is looking’. SKM’s Bill Lawson described a CSR spectrum ranging from ‘because it is good for business’ to ‘because it is the right thing to do’.
Engineers Australia is currently looking at their position in the CSR spectrum, and how they can influence what their staff and their members do in the CSR space. One recent initiative was the development of the Engineers Australia Reconciliation Action Plan, aimed at helping to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australian’s.
The Australian Humanitarian Engineering Summit in Brisbane looked at developing the Australian engineering response to the global humanitarian engineering imperative. The conference was addressed by Simon McKeon, the Australian of the Year, who urged for more engineering businesses to throw their weight behind the humanitarian engineering cause. Six focus areas were identified during interactive workshops: education, capacity building, appropriate technology, reconciliation, partnerships, and commitment and leadership. You can join the conversation to flesh out these response areas at www.yohe.uservoice.com.
I watched Metropolis, the 1927 sci-fi classic, last night, and it explored the concept of two classes of citizens trying to destroy each other, with the net result being they destroyed themselves. This is true in today’s world as well, we, the society needs the corporate world, we need stuff to be made and created, but equally they need us to need the stuff and that is why CSR is necessary, because without society there is no need for corporations. Metropolis had a wonderful tag line:
“There can be no understanding between the hands and the head unless the heart acts as mediator.”
As a young engineer keep this thought in mind when you are deciding where to put the road, or what chemicals to use in the production process.
EA recently ran a workshop on corporate social responsibility (CSR). The YEA National Committee, representatives from EWB, YEA-V and EA staff attended a day workshop event facilitated by Net Balance Foundation to attempt to identify what CSR is, what it means to EA as an organisation, and what it means to our members and the profession.
As warfare has morphed over the past century, so has the concept of ‘corporation’. Where in WW1 it was all about trench warfare, finding something you were good at, and just sticking to it. In WW2 it became more about agility, pre-emptive reactions and the surprise of the Panzer divisions, this then transitioned through the Vietnam era, where the guerrilla enemy was relatively unknown, their tactics a mystery and the only option was to remain as flexible as possible and react as quickly as possible. We are now in the 21st Century and the nature of the war we fight has changed again, we now exist in what is sometimes referred to as the ‘Three block war’. No longer are soldiers heading out to kill a known enemy who lives in a trench across the field, they are walking streets with women, children, fathers and grandparents, of which any and all may be the enemy or equally none of them may be the enemy. A war is only as successful as the number of people that believe in it and hence it is critical a solider conquers the hearts and minds of the street.
The corporate world has also morphed through similar phases and is now at a point where the people of the streets have the information, knowledge and power to question the corporate world, and critically, the ability to take their money elsewhere (to the enemy).
It is a corporation’s responsibility to act in a way that society sees as fair, true and beneficial to the majority of the population, including the shareholders, however, they can do it for several reasons, people will like them and therefore buy more of their product, which is one end of the scale, all the way to the other end, which is, it’s the right thing to do. I will provide some examples.
Changing your processing plant so you produce less waste is beneficial to society, but people are unlikely to be aware of it, and it is unlike to affect their decision to do business with you, but it’s the right thing to do.
Giving work experience jobs to troubled teens that are dropping out of Year 9 and 10 will definitely cost you money, but there is a reasonable chance that these kids will straighten out and be contributing members of society. It is the right thing to do, and it might make your customers look fondly on you and buy more of your product.
You only supply paper bags to your shoppers and you charge a fee for their use. Customers will come to your shop, because they feel they are making a socially responsibly decision, but you are on charging the cost, and the driver is, it will make you money. The corporation is not being socially responsible; they are facilitating the end consumer to be socially responsible.
So what does it mean to you as a practicing engineer, who is a long way from owning their own company? Every action and decision you make has an effect on society, consider those effects:
When you are comfortable answering these questions, get your boss to start asking them and your peers, ask the simple question…So What?
This month saw the 2010 Engineering Leadership Conference run as a joint venture between Young Engineers Australia and the Centre of Engineering Leadership Management. I’m sure that plenty of blog articles on leadership will stem from it but I’d like to comment both on the usage of statistics and gender equality.
There was a presentation on equality by a speaker from the department of human rights. The majority of the presentation focused on gender equality, though not focussed on engineering. At the risk of misquoting, some shocking statistics were presented: females accounting for only 10% of CEOs, females accumulating half the lifetime income and superannuation, females in general earning less than males at every stage of their career.
All statistics need to be taken in context. I don’t know any employer who would honestly give a female a lower wage than a male or think a male more qualified. The spokesperson’s speech would have been more pertinent if it had focussed on figures relating specifically to engineering, though the same considerations of the statistics would need to be made.
I propose the following explanations for this statistical inequality, based on my experience (admittedly as a male), many of which are relevant to engineers between the ages of 25 and 35.
1. Men can’t have babies. Due to this we have cultural gender roles: mothers and bread winners. This difference is expanded on below.
2. Many women may choose a salary package (or a career) that provides flexibility (in work hours before and after birth, in leave entitlements, etc.) over a larger salary, so as to cater for raising children, with most men taking salaries as the primary breadwinner. This may be one factor to account for lesser incomes.
3. After leaving work with a new baby, many females take a very long time to return to work, if ever. With the compounding effect of superannuation, leaving work for an extended period at the start of a career puts a significant dent in retirement savings over a lifetime.
4. Further to this, leaving work for significant periods, means that it can take time to get back into the swing of things and to gain the experience that other colleagues have since gained. All else being equal, if any two people go for a CEO job and both started their career 20 years ago, but one took 10 years off (to raise a family, or for any reason), the person with the greater time in industry is likely to win the job.
The male domination of engineering is a function of what types of careers different genders are drawn to (think of engineering versus nursing), which is influenced by cultural stereotypes of what careers males and females are ‘supposed’ to undertake. A misconception, not discrimination. Why, as a society, we often have lower salaries for female dominated careers is a discussion beyond the scope of this forum, but perhaps consideration should be given to the point above on flexibility versus salary. I suspect that many of the above points will also apply to other industries.
It was questioned during the speech, whether we should legislate gender quotas on management boards (apparently they do somewhere in
Employment in the engineering industry IS based on merit. The gender bias of our industry is a result of applicant choices, not discrimination. If someone (male or female) can demonstrate the required skills for a job, they are eligible and are in with a fighting chance. No government spokesperson with populace averaged figures is going to convince me otherwise.
The statistics would have us believe that our industry shuns females and at best won’t give them a fair go. The truth is far from this, even without government pressure. Let’s stay clear of gender based employment legislation: for equity’s sake.
If there are any computer literacy challenged folk out there like myself, here are some instructions on how to get to the blog site through the Engineers Australia website – previously I have been getting there via google.
From the Engineers Australia home page, go to the YEA page, then the Resources tab on the left of the page. The blog is at the top of the list.
A review of the mathematics and statistics education provided by both Australian schools and universities has been conducted by the Group of Eight (Go8) and the results are grim.
According to the Go8, "the state of the mathematical sciences and related quantitative disciplines in Australia has deteriorated to a dangerous level, and continues to deteriorate."
The review found that in 2003 the percentage of Australian students graduating with a major in mathematics or statistics was 0.4 per cent, compared with an OECD average of 1 per cent.
Between 2001-2007, the number of mathematics major enrolments in Australian universities fell by approximately 15 per cent.
In contrast from 2002 to 2006 the number of applicants to mathematics degrees in Britain increased by two-thirds.
Even more interesting is the attitude of school students towards mathematics. Only 33% of Australian year 8 mathematics students said they enjoyed maths - compared to an international average of 54%. In fact Professor Cheryl Praeger, Winthrop Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Western Australia commented that "very bright" students were entering Go8 universities inadequately prepared for university mathematics because of the poor state of maths tuition in schools.
Thus, an increasing number of students will be taught secondary school mathematics at university through expensive "enabling" programs.
She warned Australia risked becoming a Third World country if it failed to move quickly to arrest the decline in mathematics.
It seems that mathematics and the enabling sciences, isn’t even on the radar of interest of Australian school students. How do we as a profession tackle this? Is it even a problem – or is it someone else’s problem?
We’ve all heard a multitude of material about work/life balance – or in some cases the work/life unbalance. However, I read a particularly interesting article about this topic recently that had some disturbing numbers:
Did you know that some studies link long and irregular working hours with bad health, strained relationships, poor parenting, separation and divorce? Chronic overwork has further been linked to obesity, alcoholism, heart disease, workplace accidents, drug dependency, anxiety, fatigue, depression and many other stress related disorders. In fact, overwork can also be deadly. One report estimates that in Japan about 10,000 people die annually from overwork, the very same number that die annually in that country from car accidents! In fact, this phenomenon is so widespread that the Japanese have even coined a new word for it – karoshi – or death from overwork.
Can you believe that in the early 1930’s, due to advancing technology Professor Julian Huxley predicted that in the future no one would have need to work more than two days a week?
How about you? Has your profession become your obsession? Or have you managed to reach the elusive balance?
I’ve been doing some interesting reading lately about the process of emerging as the leader of a group of people that you are working with. In either your study or your work you will have had the opportunity to work as part of a small group to deliver assignments. For some, the news that you have to work in a group situation isn’t received pleasantly. You immediately check out the others in your group to see if you’ve got the consistent slacker who rarely turns up and never produces any work. Others quite enjoy the challenge of group work and the enhanced outputs that come from working in an effective team.
Did you know that research has shown that groups working without a clearly defined leader are uniformly unsuccessful at their tasks (Geier, 1967)? The leaderless groups in Geier’s study were defined by difficult relationships, wasted time and member frustration. Members began skipping meetings rather than suffer more disharmony. On the other hand, groups that do have a leader emerge and that develop stable roles for their members are usually successful (De Souza & Kline, 1995).
You may have noticed that in some work groups there are individuals that naturally assume the leadership role. I was surprised to find out that there is actually a process that normally occurs when groups first get together that determines who will ultimately lead the team. If you are interested in putting your leadership skills to the test or want to have some more influence over your work groups, the following defines some of the behaviours that a good leader would never display:
1. Do not show up late or miss important meetings
2. Good leaders are never uninformed about group issues
3. Never display apathy or a lack of interest through sluggish participation. Interestingly, active participation in group discussion and work is a sign of commitment to the group, and commitment to the group and its goals is part of the leadership process (De Souza & Kline, 1995).
4. Do not attempt to dominate conversation during discussions
5. Never display poor listening skills
6. Express viewpoints in a way that is not rigid or inflexible
7. Do not bully other group members
8. Do not use offensive or abusive language
Interestingly, avoiding the above behaviours may not be all that is required to emerge as the leader of a group. Generally, a process of elimination occurs in the minds of group members. Initially, those who talk the most are perceived as potential leaders, while those who are quiet tend to leave the impression of indifference and non commitment. Next, those who are uninformed, unintelligent or unskilled are eliminated from the leadership race. Of those that are left, leadership style starts to become important. Those that are bossy, dictatorial or irritating are now eliminated.
If there is still more than one person in the leadership line-up, things such as displaying effective listening, gathering group support or providing solutions to problems generally define the eventual leader. Ultimately, if you want to become the leader of a group, you should follow these steps (Bormann, 1990):
1. Manifest conformity to the group’s norms, values and goals
2. Display proper motivation to lead
3. Avoid the behaviours listed above
If you’ve noticed that there are a handful of people that always tend to become leaders of small work groups – whether formally or informally, you might find that they negotiate the above process and come out in front each time. Have a go at influencing this process the next time you become part of a new group and you may be surprised to find that the balance of power shifts in your direction.
Borrman, E. G. (1990). Small group communication: Theory and practice. New York: Harper & Row.
De Souza, G., & Kline, H. (1995). Emergent leadership in the group goal-setting process. Small Group Research, 26, 475-496.
Geier, J. (1967). A trait approach in the study of leadership in small groups. Journal of Communication, 17, 316-323.
Rothwell, J., D. (2007). In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups and Teams. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
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