Australia is heading towards an engineering workforce crisis and demand for degree-qualified engineers is growing.

Yet women continue to represent less than 13 per cent of degree qualified engineers in Australia, a statistic that has remained stubbornly low for more than 10 years.

The percentage of women in specific areas such as aerospace and ship building - two key growth areas in Australia - is even lower.

To meet this increasing demand will require engagement from all of society, yet 50 per cent are not included.

So what is happening? Why are our young women opting out of engineering and a career that has significant impact on our world and the way we live?

From cutlery, to buildings, to transport, to drug delivery and telehealth, to energy generation - engineers are core to our lives and livelihood.

Given the importance of engineering to society, the persistent lack of gender diversity within the industry I love is worrying.

Diverse teams are more productive and inclusive - but even more than that, they are more innovative in their solutions to challenges.

And it is such innovation that will propel Australia's engineering future.

So again, where are all the women? We need women's voices at the engineering design table, as it is here that the decisions that shape our world are made.

At this critical time for engineering in Australia it is worrying to learn that our young women continue to disengage with science and maths subjects at school - foundational subjects to a career in engineering.

In the four years to 2015, female participation in advanced maths fell 25 per cent and 33 per cent in intermediate maths and physics.

And then, the numbers were not high to start with.

Girls show the same aptitude, ability and interest in maths in years 4 and 8, but choose not to study in later years, so clearly something in the system is broken.

But all is not lost! We have the opportunity to rethink and redesign how we are talking engineering to not only girls and young women, but all underrepresented areas in the current professional engineering landscape.

And that is exactly what UNSW Canberra set out to achieve when we started Young Women in Engineering (YoWIE) five years ago.

It's a program and community designed to change how we talk engineering with our young women, and to change the perception of what engineering is and who can do it.

YoWIE aims to change the narrative that society has placed on who and what an engineer is, using a simple philosophy "I see, therefore I do".

Using a specially designed program and hands-on activities the YoWIE team has created a successful program that shows young women why maths and science is important and can lead to an exciting career.

With a team consisting of 66 per cent female engineers, our YoWIEs spent three days each January with our passionate, enthusiastic engineers who not only love all things engineering but importantly look and think just like them. We talk engineering in a way proven to connect with young girls, with activities such as designing building and testing a rocket, earthen wall dam building and testing, and engine disassembly.

Our program is changing girls' perception and engagement with engineering, with several of our first YoWIEs starting their engineering career in 2020 - a career that they had not considered before the YoWIE program.

Dr Bianca Capra is a senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at UNSW Canberra's School of Engineering and Information Technology, co-chair of YoWIE and Chair of the Women in Fluid Mechanics subcommittee of the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society. She is also one of Science and Technology Australia's Superstars of STEM.

A version of this article was originally published by Australian Community Media.