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Women in STEM 2020

It’s not just about a degree, STEM is for everyone

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Joanne Dolan

Co-Founder, Teen-Turn

Out of the box thinking, strong interpersonal skills and resourcefulness are what girls need to access and flourish in STEM careers.

Too often, STEM careers are associated with scoring high points and Silicon Valley success stories. However, the reality is that there are myriad opportunities available to those who pursue post-secondary paths in STEM, irrespective of school or test performance.

In a year when the senior cycle has been irrecoverably changed, it is more important than ever for girls to consider all of the options available, including the alternative entry routes that historically have been more likely to be taken up by boys.

Don’t you need, like, a PhD?

There are exciting, high-paying STEM roles connected to two-year higher certificate and apprenticeship programmes. Demand for these jobs presently exceeds supply, particularly in electronics and computer support as well as for machinists and technicians working in cutting-edge health, environmental protection, food science, and chemical industries. These qualifications travel well, opening up the chance to work anywhere in the world.  

Now is the time for a re-think as the opportunities are there for the taking.

Top employers also recognise that four-year degrees are not an indicator of performance. Technology giants, Google, Apple and IBM, among others, now hire much sought after coding positions without requiring a bachelor’s to recruit from a broader talent base and build the diverse workforce they know they need.

Codeacademy, MIT OpenCourseWare and The Odin Project are all free online programming courses.

But it’s not for people like me, is it?

The best innovations come from when you do not have the same people who have the same educations and the same backgrounds solving problems. Skills like teamwork, capacity for self-directed learning, communication, resilience and creativity are valued in STEM career environments, produce results and need not be acquired at university.

With the future of work predicting that automation will displace a quarter of jobs as we know them, individuals with these skills – what Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 calls “transversal” skills – will thrive.

Consequently, for girls who do not see themselves in STEM careers because they envision it as a reserve for physicists or an unwelcoming place for those from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, now is the time for a re-think as the opportunities are there for the taking.

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