Dr Ruth Freeman
Director Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland
Equality should be promoted at every stage of the career path. New initiatives are helping to make STEM accessible to all.
As an organisation, we are continuing to build upon our significant work to improve gender balance, equality, diversity and inclusion across the research ecosystem in Ireland. We support many fantastic women researchers and in collaboration with the higher education sector.
We have made progress in recent years, in 2015 only 21% of researchers who were awarded grants from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) were women. By 2020, 29% of SFI award holders were women, 38% of the scientists employed and trained on those grants were women. But equally we recognise that there is still much more to do.
Ie aim to improve diversity and inclusion in science, by broadening participation both geographically and amongst less represented voices in science.
We aim to improve diversity and inclusion in science, by broadening participation both geographically and amongst less represented voices in science.
Improving diversity throughout career paths
Early this year we launched our new strategy – Shaping Our Future. This recognises the need to improve equality, diversity and inclusion, including gender diversity, at all stages of the research career path.
A key part element is the need to increase engagement with under-served and under-represented communities to understand and remove the barriers that exist to undertaking careers in STEM.
Through our commitment to education and public engagement we aim to improve diversity and inclusion in science, by broadening participation both geographically and amongst less represented voices in science.
Some of the initiatives supported recently target a wide range of ages including young children, teens and adults as well as some initiatives designed for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and attending DEIS schools and those living with sight loss.
An example of some of our recent initiatives:
- Irish Sign Language STEM Glossary Project – National Expansion. This project aims to promote and support STEM education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people by developing an agreed lexicon in Irish Sign Language for STEM terms. The absence of agreed signs for STEM vocabulary inhibits the teaching of STEM subjects at all levels of education and presents difficulties for those working in interpreting.
- Girls Coding – CodePlus seeks to address this imbalance by encouraging, facilitating and providing opportunities to teenage female students to engage with computer science. This project includes an expansion to the Galway and Limerick areas, in addition to the Dublin based activities funded under the SFI Discover Programme in previous years.
- Science 4 Sight Loss. The co-creation group and planned workshops will help stimulate engagement and curiosity in STEM, provide insights into STEM-related careers and inspire this underrepresented group to have confidence in their ability to tackle the barriers of diversity and inclusion in STEM.
Across all areas where we have engagement and programmes we remain committed to fostering equality, diversity and inclusion in the STEM sector. Working with those in the sector we hope to make significant improvements and impact over the coming years.