Professor Orla Feely
President, Engineers Ireland
As we celebrate the achievements of female engineers on International Women in Engineering Day, we must strive to achieve gender balance to develop a sustainable talent pipeline and meet industry demand.
Engineers are at the forefront of innovation and deliver creative and sustainable solutions for some of the world’s most complex challenges.
At a time when Ireland and the world begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19, Engineers Ireland’s latest report, ‘Engineering 2021: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’, has found that 79% of engineering organisations are planning to recruit new staff in 2021. The report also found that 71% of female engineers are confident about job opportunities in Ireland, with 84% agreeing that engineering is a rewarding career choice.
However, according to OECD reports, in Ireland just 17% of bachelor’s graduates from engineering-related programmes are women, a ratio of one woman to five men.
Addressing the divide
The percentage of women in engineering was even lower when I graduated with my degree in electronic engineering, a degree that started my immensely rewarding career journey.
In my profession, I now see women at every level who have similarly found limitless opportunities to innovate, lead and make a difference to the world with their careers.
As I look to the future, I aspire to meet and work with even more talented and creative female engineers and witness the combined mind-power of women and men working together in equal measure to address the major challenges of our time.
But to achieve this goal, we still need to work to inform young women of the many exciting and rewarding opportunities in engineering and to inspire and support them to pursue careers in the profession.
Nurturing a sustainable pipeline of female talent
Engineers Ireland has sought to address the gender divide at a grassroots and professional level.
I now see women at every level who have similarly found limitless opportunities to innovate, lead and make a difference to the world with their careers.
Through our nationwide STEPS programme, we have developed a number of hands-on initiatives that aim to spark children’s imaginations about STEM, by providing students with role models and real-world opportunities to engage with the engineering community.
Additionally, our Women in Engineering Group has created a network to facilitate connections between women working in engineering roles to knowledge-share, exchange ideas and boost the number of women working in the engineering profession.
As we look towards the Ireland of the future, greater representation by female engineers will be required to ensure that we apply all our talents and a diversity of viewpoints to the challenges and opportunities that we face in areas such as climate change and digital transformation.
By working together, we can strive to nurture Ireland’s future engineering talent and empower both men and women to play their role to develop sustainable solutions for society.