Business In The Workplace

Thursday 18 July 2019

'Go outside your comfort zone' - Young women encouraged to target STEM-type jobs as Ireland's workforce still has way to go

But Ireland now has greater percentage of women working in STEM-related jobs than US

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Ralph Riegel

Ireland has made significant strides in boosting the number of young women entering science-based careers but 75pc of STEM-type jobs are still filled by men.

The revelation came more than 6,000 Transition Year girls attend 'I Wish' events in Cork and Dublin to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers.

The events - being staged at Cork City Hall and the RDS - aim to promote STEM careers through showcasing role models including Young Scientist champion, Ciara Judge, Dr Pixie McKenna, Dr Jessamyn Fairfield and Sonya Lennon.

Ciara Judge - who attended the Virgin Galactic space programme in the Mojave desert last year and was yesterday flying out to a science fair in Geneva - urged young Irish women to step outside their comfort zones.

"My advice is not to play it safe - go outside your comfort zone. If you have an interest or a passion for something even remotely science-related, don't be afraid to follow your dreams," she said.

Ms Judge said that her life changed when she attended the Young Scientist event as a five year old - and she was entranced by the science and research projects on display.

Read more: Motivating STEM industry leaders to inspire and lead the female talent of the future

She won the 2013 Young Scientist competition with two Kinsale Community School friends and is now studying genetics.

Ms Judge now hopes to work in the bio-informatics sector.

 'I Wish' co-founder Caroline O'Driscoll said Ireland has made major strides in encouraging women to enter the greater science field - but more remains to be done.

"Employment within the general STEM field here in Ireland is around 25pc for women," she said.

Ms O'Driscoll said that progress has been made, particularly in the engineering field, but  the overall number of women in the sector remains somewhere between 18pc and 23pc.

The number of women entering the engineering field has increased by an estimated 1-3pc given STEM campaigns over recent years.

However, Ireland now has a greater percentage of women working in STEM-related jobs than the United States.

Read more: Aer Lingus encourages more girls to consider pilot careers in Irish Girl Guides partnership

"Events like this are so very important," she said.

"A survey has indicated that 60pc (of students) change their subject choices after attending here."

Ms O'Driscoll also pointed out that STEM subjects are vital because of the rapid pace of change within the Irish and global economies.

"Around 60pc of people (attending here) will work in jobs that do not yet exist," she said.

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