Fearless female engineer appointed Victoria's Chief Engineer

Leading engineer and RMIT alumnus Dr Collette Burke is Victoria’s first Chief Engineer.

"It’s resilience, fearlessness and passion that will keep you driving towards achieving your full potential" - Dr Collette Burke.

A newly created position, the Chief Engineer advises the government on engineering aspects of the state’s major infrastructure projects and aims to raise the profile of the engineering profession. Burke has been on a steady ascent to the top of her profession since first entering the field of engineering at 18, an industry that was and still is dominated by men. The gender disparity when studying was noticeable, she says, but it didn’t affect her drive to establish a successful career in engineering. “I was lucky to have a very positive experience studying. The staff at RMIT encouraged me every step of the way, there was never a question of gender.”

After gaining her PhD at RMIT and extensive industry experience, Burke returned to the University as a lecturer, an experience she credits for helping her develop the skills needed for her role as Chief Engineer of Victoria. “I’m thrilled to be in a position where I can help raise the profile of the engineering profession in Victoria and strengthen links between government, industry and education,” she says. “It’s exciting to be at a point where I’m providing influence at a strategic level.”

The gender gap in engineering remains substantial - only about 16 per cent of engineering students in Australia are women. Burke believes earlier exposure is key to seeing more women enter science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. Women are underrepresented in STEM professions, particularly in leadership roles,” she says.

“Young women aren’t being attracted into the industry so there needs to be more work at a school level to showcase the opportunities there are for women in STEM careers. “We need to be showing girls the kinds of roles they could be involved in. It’s hard to envisage what your career path might look like when you don’t have that exposure. We need to continue to strive for strong female role models in STEM professions and be encouraging mentorship and sponsorship. Taking the time to guide and encourage other women is critical. Talk to them about the pathways they can take to keep growing and advancing professionally."

“If you’re working in a profession that’s traditionally dominated by men, the most important thing is building resilience within yourself. It’s resilience, fearlessness and passion that will keep you driving towards achieving your full potential.”

Burke currently serves as the Managing Director of Australian engineering consulting firm Exner Group and UAE based firm Karsta Middle East. She is also a Director of VicTrack, and a former President and National Director of the National Association of Women in Construction.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the outstanding ways that #womenofRMIT are shaping the world. See the stories.
 

Story: Geane Lyall

Share

  • Society
  • Alumni
  • Science and technology

Related News

RMIT Vietnam launches digital education centre

A new Centre of Digital Excellence at RMIT Vietnam has been launched by Victoria’s Minister for Training and Skills, Steven Herbert.

Research set to take European forest assessment to new heights

The use of low-cost and lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles to assess forest health in Europe is the focus of a research collaboration between RMIT and the Italian National Research Council.

RMIT students design ACMI’s first ever line of merchandise

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) has launched a fresh line of merchandise locally designed and produced in collaboration with RMIT textile design students.

RMIT student awarded European internship with industry leader

An RMIT engineering student has spent two months in the south of Spain working on an innovative solar energy project for one of the country's largest chemical groups.

Subscribe to RMIT NewsSubscribe
Flag Image One Flag Image Two

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.

More information