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Women in STEM 2021

How schools are helping inspire the future for girls in STEM

Image provided by: STEPS

Roseanne O’Leary

Team Leader, STEPS 

An annual campaign is helping to promote engineering and the importance of the profession to children in Ireland. It enables all secondary schools to inspire the next generation of engineers and excites students about the possibilities a career in engineering can offer. 

OECD figures indicate that in Ireland just 14% of bachelor’s graduates from engineering-related programmes are women. Since 2012, St Mary’s College (an all-girls’ mixed ability secondary school in Derry, Northern Ireland) have participated in the STEPS Engineers Week initiative with the key goals of encouraging their students to make informed subject option choices and to inspire increasing numbers of their students to enter STEM career pathways.  

There are many local STEM employers in the area who recruit new engineers regularly and St Mary’s College are dedicated to giving their girls the opportunity to enter the engineering industry.  

Collaboration is key  

Throughout the week, St Mary’s college host major events to promote engineering as a career for women. Students participate in engineering challenges and projects; attend fun engineering shows; visit local engineering companies and third-level colleges for tours of their engineering facilities and gain an insight into the careers available.  

Coordinated by Mrs Clare Doherty, Head of Technology and Design at St Mary’s College, numerous engineering companies support the annual event as well as past pupils who now work in the engineering sector. In 2020, 35 visiting engineers, 20 employers and five third-level course providers attended St Mary’s College and more than 2,500 students took part in activities. 

90% of students surveyed felt that they were very interested or quite interested in engineering careers.

Re-writing the narrative  

There has been a definite change in the attitude of students towards engineering at this all-girls school because of the focus on engineering careers for one week annually to increase their awareness.  

Evaluation of data has been completed and analysed since 2011 which conclusively shows there has been an increased awareness among all students of the many and diverse range of engineering and STEM careers available. In 2020, 90% of students surveyed felt that they were very interested or quite interested in engineering careers after the event.  

Parental interviews show an increased awareness and understanding of the opportunities a career in STEM offers their daughters. Past pupils are employed in several engineering jobs locally in companies including E&I Engineering, AE Global, Seagate, Bemis Healthcare Packaging, Gallagher & McKinney Engineering, Northstone and Terex. 

STEPS Engineers Week 2022 takes place from the 5th – 11th March. The STEPS team will have free resources, including engineering activities, shows and documentaries available for young people to explore the creative world of engineering.  

 Visit for more information.  

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