Schools push to tackle shortage of women choosing engineering

LARISSA NOLAN A DESPERATE lack of women in engineering means that females make up only one in 10 engineers in Ireland.

To tackle the shortfall, the industry is now trying to lure women into the job with the offer of scholarship packages and a nationwide schools' campaign on engineering. At the moment, only 16 per cent of engineering students are female.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) says our economy needs more engineers and wants to remove the notion of the engineer as a man in a hard hat.

SFI recently launched Young Women in Engineering 2006, which gives up to 10 female students entering four-year engineering degree programmes the chance to win a scholarship worth ?20,000 each.

The package, includes ?8,000 over the four years, a Dell notebook computer, the support of a mentor and a summer internship.

Engineer Cecelia Chan, who is a lecturer in the subject in DIT Kevin Street, said the scholarship will guarantee a career for the 10 girls chosen.

Cecelia is an electrical engineer who loves her profession. "It is a great career and I would recommend it to anyone who has a love of maths or science subjects. There are travel and promotion opportunities and it pays well."

She explained that sometimes the male/female ratio is so unbalanced that there is only one girl to a class.

Dr Mary Kelly of Science Foundation Ireland explained the lack of women in the industry is down to old-fashioned perceptions.

"There is the image of the engineer as a profession in the male field."

Engineers Ireland says only 10 per cent of engineers are female. Spokeswoman Grace Fitzpatrick explained that there is a widespread lack of understanding of what engineering is about.

"There is a belief that girls are better at subjects like Art or French and men are better at science subjects. As a result, many all-girls schools do not have options such as physics or chemistry."

Engineers Ireland has encouraged the Government to invest more money into science subjects and facilities such as laboratories and equipment.

There are many different kinds of engineers including chemical, biomedical and environmental who work in a broad spectrum of fields.