Frances Fitzgerald TD
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation
STEM graduates can find solutions to our most pressing global problems, but equal female representation is needed for innovation to continue. Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald TD speaks about increasing female participation in STEM.
“Globally, we are facing multiple challenges; sustainable energy and food, climate change, access to clean water and better healthcare for all. Many of the solutions will be found within science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), yet we are still struggling to fill STEM jobs.
“In Ireland, approximately 26 per cent of our graduates come from STEM. While this is higher than in the US, Japan and the UK, women make up just a quarter of those employed in STEM roles here. This gender imbalance represents not just a loss of productivity to the economy, given women make up almost 50 per cent of the workforce in Ireland, but also a loss to our potential innovation and capabilities as a nation.
Woman make up 50% of Ireland’s workforce, but only 25% of the STEM industry.
“Increased economic participation of women is a core objective of Government policy. Innovation 2020, the government’s strategy for Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader, sets out that to achieve excellence, talent and impact in research and development, we need equal female participation.
“Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) ‘Agenda 2020’ target to have 25 per cent of its research grant-award portfolio held by female researchers was reached in 2016. This target has been increased to 30 per cent for 2020. The SFI Gender Strategy sets out a roadmap to reach this and includes support mechanisms to help women stay in research over the duration of their careers.
“The extension of the Athena Swan Awards in Ireland, as supported by Irish Higher Education Institutes and research funding agencies, further achieves an internationally recognised ‘quality mark’ for gender equality.
We should inspire female students from primary school, through to PhD and post-doc.
“We must make students aware of the attractive, diverse careers available within STEM sectors: pharmaceuticals, medical devices, ICT and agri-food. We need them to help us shape the future of our research-driven economy, to bring their innovation, their creativity, and their talent to the fore.
“SFI’s education and public engagement initiatives aim to increase the participation of girls in STEM-related activities. SFI’s Smart Futures programme, which promotes STEM careers in Ireland to young people, has over 200 supporting partners across industry and academia. It partners with groups like iWish and Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) to provide students with opportunities to interact with female STEM professionals and gain career insights.
“As Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, I believe in the ability of STEM to effect positive change in the world and to be a key driver of Ireland’s economy. In committing to funding the very best in science education and public outreach in Ireland, we want to make STEM accessible to all.”