Big gender gap in STEM professions

STEM qualifications highly valued
  • Deborah Condon

One in 10 adults in Ireland work in STEM professions, however there continues to be a big gender gap, with men much more likely to work in this area than women, a new survey has found.

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and maths and these disciplines are vital in the modern world. For example, research in science has led to the development of a number of potential COVID-19 vaccines.

The survey by Pfizer Healthcare set to out to assess the public's interest in science and the role of STEM-related subjects in primary and secondary school.

It found that almost half of people believe they have a moderate knowledge of science, while one in eight feel they have a high knowledge. Men and younger adults were more likely to say they had a high knowledge.

At least three-quarters of those surveyed said they think there should be more focus on science in primary school, while almost half said that achieving the Leaving Cert points needed to study a third level STEM course would be too difficult.

However, almost two-thirds of the participants believe that people leaving college with a STEM qualification have better career prospects than those with non-STEM qualifications.

Of those surveyed, one in 10 (11%) worked in STEM, however there was a noticeable gender gap - 15% of men versus 7% of women.

"This valuable research gives us an insight into people's perceptions towards science, and the barriers that still exist. We can also see the imbalance in the representation of women in STEM professions.

"It demonstrates to me the huge body of work we have to do to excite and encourage people about science and its impact on our daily lives. We need science more than ever in this post-COVID world and we want and need Ireland to be a leader in this field," commented the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.

Also commenting on the findings, Dr Ruth Freeman, director of Science for Society with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), said that these results "shed light on how science is viewed by the public and also reinforces the importance of STEM-led subjects in Ireland".

"Through the continued promotion of STEM, we will have a workforce that is well positioned to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow. This pandemic has taught us that we must be prepared for the next unknown, and equally, how we all turn to science in times of uncertainty," she noted.

The survey was released in tandem with Pfizer and Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin's new digital-led initiative, Speed of Science, which tells the historical story of vaccines and the role of scientific advancement in society. For more on this, click here.

The online survey involved 1,050 adults nationwide and was carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes Research in June and July of this year.


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