May 19, 2024


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Breaking down barriers is ‘crucial’ for women in engineering


While women make up 23pc of engineering grads, they represent a smaller proportion of industry workers. Now, an all-island project is underway to address the barriers women experience.

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With International Women’s Day (today, 8 March) falling during Engineers Week, it’s important to acknowledge the position of women in this field.

According to Engineers Ireland, 23pc of engineering graduates are women but only 12pc of those working in the sector are women.

Prof Orla Feely, Engineers Ireland president, said more focus and engagement needs to happen between professional bodies, engineering organisations and the education system.

“More collaboration and joined up thinking is required to support our talented and qualified female engineers to remain and advance in the profession,” she said.

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Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland, added: “Breaking down barriers and encouraging girls to enter the profession and young women to remain in the sector is crucial, as is showcasing the many varied, exciting career opportunities that are on offer in this respect.”

Last year, Engineers Ireland launched a Women in Engineering Group to help address the industry’s gender gap.

At the time, group chair Georgina Molloy said its mission was to support women already in the sector and to encourage young people to consider a career in engineering.

“The hope is that by supporting women and by building a network, it will prevent women from leaving the profession for other, more gender-balanced industries, and that a visibly active group will entice girls to study engineering.”

A new tool to address barriers

Earlier this year, Confirm, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre for smart manufacturing, launched an all-island project to identify and address barriers experienced by women in manufacturing and engineering careers.

The project, in partnership with the South Eastern Regional College (SERC) in Co Down, secured a €5,000 grant supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland’s All-Island Fund.

Together, the team launched a digital engagement tool called We Can Engineer It to gather insights from women on their experiences of engineering education and careers. Results will be gathered into a report to be published later in the year.

Aine McGreeghan, curriculum manager for engineering at SERC, said engineering remains a male-dominated profession with numerous barriers to women pursuing a career in the field.

“Through the We Can Engineer It platform, we hope to gather insights into what might attract young women into a career in engineering and also how engineering is included in, or excluded from, career outlooks and planning, some of which has previously been difficult to capture.”

Denise Charlton, chief executive of The Community Foundation for Ireland, said the project aims to “break down barriers to career paths, which previously have not been open to women and girls”.

“This is an exciting partnership which has the potential to open up opportunities, not just for individuals but also for the engineering sector itself.”

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