By Megan Gorman
It’s no secret that a significant gender gap exists within both study and employment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors. In 2014, the proportion of male graduates in STEM areas in Ireland, was the highest in the EU while the proportion of female graduates in Ireland, at ten per 1,000 of the population aged 20-29, was the ninth lowest rate in the EU.
Thecity.ie spoke to Women In Technology and Science (WITS) to get a better understanding of the gender balance.
“It’s hard to understand why we have this gender gap. It seems to come down to culture and what we deem suitable for women and men. It is a problem for a number of reasons,” said Marion Palmer of WITS.
“Girls and women are missing out on well paid jobs with interesting career opportunities. It is a fascinating area full of wonder and joy. Society is missing out because STEM is part of our everyday lives, part of our life and culture, and it really helps people.”
Employment numbers can tend to differ from graduate numbers but in 2017, the STEM workforce saw a positive jump in numbers towards closing the gap.
In a recent study completed by WISE, 61,430 more women were working in STEM areas. The number of men in STEM employment fell by 45,980 in the same period.
Women make up 23% of those employed in core STEM occupations and there are nearly 12,000 more female engineers than in 2016 with women now making up 11% of the total sector. There are nearly 22,000 more women working as science and engineering technicians than in 2016 bringing the total up to 27%.
However, there are 7,000 fewer women working as science professionals than in 2016. This includes chemists, biochemists, biologists, physicists, geologists and meteorologists.
“The issue for WITS is to encourage women who have chosen STEM courses to stay in STEM,” said Palmer. “That’s why we have free student affiliate membership for STEM students and run events for and with students and early career graduates.”
“There were more women in ICT in 2004 than there is now,” Palmer continued. “The major issue is keeping women in STEM and ensuring that there are sufficient women in leadership roles such as professors in academia and senior management in business to change the environment and culture. Diversity is good for innovation.”