Skip to main content
Home » Women in STEM » How to inspire future women engineers through STEM education
Women in STEM Q2 2024

How to inspire future women engineers through STEM education

Dr Jennifer Keenahan

Associate Professor in Civil Engineering and Board Member, WITS Ireland

To inspire future engineers and promote diversity in STEM, we must shape educational strategies, encourage learning and ensure women pursuing STEM are supported.

As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, I am reminded of my own journey as a female engineer — a path that has been both challenging and rewarding. I completed my PhD in 2014 and began working at Arup. It was a time of professional growth, and I was proud to become a Chartered Engineer with Engineers Ireland.

Role model inspiring women into STEM

In 2017, I embraced a new challenge by moving to an academic position at University College Dublin (UCD). As an associate professor, my role is diverse, involving lecturing, research and contributions to broader society. I teach classes on the ‘engineering and architecture of structures’ to interdisciplinary groups of architecture and engineering students.

I aim to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers. As the Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning at my college, I also have the privilege of shaping university policy and strategy, keeping abreast of educational trends and supporting the development of our teaching and learning programmes.

Contributing to research and guidance

My research interests lie in the development of computer simulations of the built environment. During my PhD, I created models of bridges and explored the use of sensors on vehicles to detect bridge damage. More recently, my focus has shifted to studying wind flows around bridges and the potential impact of climate change on bridge safety. Currently, I am supervising a team of six PhD students, guiding them through their research endeavours.

Our goal is to attract and retain women
in the field and promote greater diversity.

Encouragement for women in STEM

The third aspect of my role is contributing to my discipline in society. Since 2020, I have been serving as an executive board member at WITS Ireland, a voluntary organisation that supports women in STEM careers. Our goal is to attract and retain women in the field and promote greater diversity.

I recently organised a panel discussion entitled ‘Managing Maternity Leaves and PhD Supervision’. As a female engineer and academic, I am acutely aware of being in the minority and strive to serve as a role model for other women pursuing similar careers.

Advocating for women in engineering

On this International Women in Engineering Day, I hope that my story will encourage other women to pursue their passions in STEM and contribute their unique perspectives to our ever-evolving field.

Next article