Senior Executive, BioPharmaChem Ireland
Lack of gender diversity in the workforce can negatively impact industries. Therefore, it is essential to encourage and support more women to become scientists and engineers.
The underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields remains a significant concern worldwide.
Gender imbalance in scientists and engineers
According to the latest figures from Eurostat, 44% of Ireland’s 287,500 scientists and engineers were female in 2021. This is a little above the EU average of 41%. While progress has been made in recent years to improve gender balance in STEM, it is crucial to continue promoting and encouraging more women to pursue STEM careers.
Challenges for women entering STEM
One of the primary challenges hindering women’s entry into STEM is the persistence of gender stereotypes. Societal expectations and biases can discourage young females from pursuing scientific and technical interests from an early age.
It is vital to challenge these stereotypes by providing diverse role models and highlighting the achievements of women in STEM. This can be achieved through targeted awareness campaigns, mentorship programmes and showcasing successful female professionals as inspirations — for example, the IMI/30% Club Network Mentor Programme or iWish.
By working alongside experienced professionals, apprentices receive invaluable mentorship, guidance and real-world experience.
Creating more educational opportunities
Encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects throughout their academic journey is crucial. Industry outreach programmes can introduce students to STEM concepts, emphasising their practical applications and their potential to make a positive impact on society, with STEM fairs for second-level student such as SciFect and the STEM Teacher Internship (STInt) Programme.
Collaboration between educational institutions, industry and government bodies is vital for creating a supportive ecosystem for women in STEM. Partnerships can help establish internship and apprenticeship opportunities, provide access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources, and bridge the gap between academic knowledge and industry requirements.
Building experience through apprenticeships
Apprenticeship programmes provide hands-on experiential learning opportunities, allowing women to gain practical skills in STEM fields. By working alongside experienced professionals, apprentices receive invaluable mentorship, guidance and real-world experience.
Apprenticeships facilitate a more immersive learning experience, enabling the learner to gain a deep understanding of STEM concepts — bolstering their confidence to pursue long-term careers in these fields.
Seeing women in a wider range of STEM roles
Encouraging more women to pursue STEM careers from entry-level to leadership roles is crucial for achieving gender equality and driving innovation in our society.
By breaking stereotypes, providing educational empowerment, building support networks and fostering collaboration, we can create an environment where employees feel empowered to thrive in STEM fields, ensuring a more diverse and inclusive future for STEM and beyond.