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Women in STEM 2021

Supporting female leaders is a key driver of innovation and growth

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Ciara Finlay

Medtech and Engineering Senior Executive, Irish Medtech Association

The medtech and engineering industries are tackling horizontal and vertical segregation in STEM careers by sharing best practice and industry foresight through a business group.

Women represent the largest pool of untapped labour in the world. Our ambition is to make Ireland a world leader in gender leadership for STEM. We are driving this work through the Ibec Medtech and Leadership Development Taskforce. Established in 2017, the taskforce set the goal of increasing the number of women working in medtech, polymer technology, and engineering and progressing into leadership.

Inspiring girls, supporting female leaders

Ibec research revealed that the number of women at head of function level for manufacturing dropped from 15% in 2001 to 3% in 2018 compared to other sectors like HR and finance.

To tackle this, we set out our strategy of ‘Inspiring girls, supporting female leaders’ strategy with business case studies from a number of leading organisations. In the report we identified three key capabilities:

  1. Career guidance: Facilitating business engagement in educational initiatives and encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects.
  2. Diverse slates: Holding senior leaders and hiring managers accountable while encouraging them to actively pursue hiring from under-represented groups.
  3. Flexibility: Encouraging companies to adopt flexible working programmes and measure employee impact of these policies.

Additionally, the Irish Medtech Skillnet developed the ReLaunch programme to help female returners develop career goals, self-confidence and pitch themselves to progress in the workplace.

The Ibec ‘CEO Survey Priorities 2021 – 2024’ revealed that 76% ranked ‘promoting an inclusive culture in their organisation’ as very important/important. However, the Ibec HR Update, October 2020, revealed that one in 10 (9%) expect to have difficulties retaining female staff following COVID-19.

Policy priorities for the future

As we look to the future, businesses will continue to invest in supporting better representation and we are calling on policymakers to create right environment for gender equity with recommendations to:

Make gender leadership a priority:
  • Tackle challenges such as occupational segregation; gender stereotyping; division of caring responsibilities; and the gender imbalance in decision-making​.

Support labour market participation

  • Don’t disincentivise work with unfair tax treatment of second earners in married couples​ and invest in measures to address the lack of affordable childcare.

Don’t cut girls off from careers

  • Expand subject choices in secondary school, currently subjects like engineering are more likely to be offered in boys or mixed schools.

The Ibec Medtech and Leadership Development Taskforce is led by Chair and Alcon Ireland Site Head and General Manager Jackie Murphy and Vice Chair and Medtronic Senior Product Development Director Ronan Rogers. It brings together members of the Irish Medtech Association, Polymer Technology Ireland and the Ibec Engineering Network.

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