From the earliest stages of our children’s education, gender boundaries are established. Unfortunately, whether it is because of the toys they are given or inherently gendered classroom practises, many young women grow up not envisioning a career in science. This is a terrible shame, as they are not only excluding themselves from a whole range of well paid jobs in the dynamic STEM sector, but are also depriving that male-dominated sector of the different perspectives women have to offer.

To bring more women into the STEM, we need to address how girls view science and scientists from the earliest stages of childhood:

 

 

Removing boundaries

 

At Maynooth, we are doing everything we can to remove the boundaries that prevent women following a career in science. Broad entry routes give students the opportunity to explore a wide range of science subjects before specialising, including foundation courses in biology, physics, chemistry and maths. For many students coming out of Leaving Cert, there is a real anxiety around maths, but we offer students real support in this regard and we’re seeing a large proportion of students choosing to pursue maths to degree level.

All of us will have been inspired by a passionate teacher at some stage in our education. Another important element of removing the barriers to STEM subjects is demonstrating this passion to students. Our lecturers are also leading researchers, and they develop their modules around their research. The enthusiasm that comes from teaching something to which you have dedicated your career has a real impact on students. We firmly believe young people can’t get the knowledge about the possibilities in STEM without having lecturers who are passionate about what they do.

 

Career paths

 

The possibilities for STEM graduates are truly endless. Students need to know that solitary lab jobs or doing a PhD are not the only pathways. In the modern world, where disruption and uncertainty defines the jobs market, graduates need to be flexible and creative to fill new and emerging roles. There is always a market for the type of critical and analytical thinkers that come from STEM courses.

The reality is that currently many young women write off this pathway long before they reach university. To change this, we need to take a comprehensive look at how we portray gender roles from pre-school upwards. Do so and a world of opportunity opens to our young women.