Fine Gael Cork Senator, Deirdre Clune, has today (Thursday) said that new research shows that we need to debunk myths about studying science subjects if we want to attract more young women into the tech industry. The research, carried out as part of the Women Invent Tomorrow Initiative being run by Silicon Republic, is the first of its kind in Ireland and looks at why there are so few women qualified in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills.
“Women currently account for just 25% of the 117,800 people working in STEM industries here. This gross imbalance needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. This is particularly important when you consider the findings of a recent Forfás report which estimated that a potential 44,000 IT-related jobs could be created in Ireland over the next six years. Women must be able to avail of these opportunities.
“The research carried out for Silicon Republic sought the views of 1,000 female secondary-school students, young women (age 18-23), secondary-school teachers and the parents of daughters in particular STEM-related subjects. Among the key findings of the research are:
· Forty four per cent of secondary school students said they perceived STEM subjects as being more suited to males than females.
· Twenty five per cent of teachers believe that promotion of traditional ‘girl career paths’ (e.g. nursing, teaching) contributes to the stereotype.
· Seventy seven per cent of teachers believe that girls chose biology as a subject because it is more aligned with what they see as female career paths.
· Ninety two per cent of teachers believe that girls perceive biology to be easier than chemistry or physics. Twenty six per cent of all students that took physics higher level paper in 2013 were female representing a drop of three per cent on the previous year.
“Given the huge job creation potential in the tech sector, it is more important than ever we encourage all students, especially young women who are lagging behind their male peers, to study STEM subjects. Subject decisions inevitably affect course choices at third level and ultimately career opportunities. This research shows that we need to debunk the myth that women are not suited to science and maths subjects if we want to reverse this trend.
“Last year’s winners of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, who went on to scoop the First Prize at EU Awards, were three female students from Kinsale Community School. Two girls from the same school won the Best Group award at the BT Young Scientist & Technology for their project this year. We must now build on these high profile successes and encourage more young female students to opt for STEM subjects to meet the ever increasing demand for tech graduates.”