Gender Diversity in STEM

Here’s a few more thoughts and words on the topic that is currently forefront in my mind – encouraging young girls to consider a career in Science.








July 1, 2013 · 2:46 pm

Art, Ballet and Science – reflections on Girls in ICT day

Art, Ballet and Science - reflections on Girls in ICT day

I was walking in the park with my two daughters the other day. They were holding their Daddy’s hand in that lovely, unself-conscious way that kids do for only a few precious years. It was a beautiful spring day, daffodils just starting to push their heads up above the ground, clear blue sky and the air so clean and sharp that just breathing it made you feel rejuvenated. A great day to have one of those chats. So I asked my eight year old daughter what she would like to do when she grows up. Without hesitation she said to me, “I’d like to be an artist, a ballet dancer and a teacher”. And then she looked up and whatever she read in my face, she instantly said, “but of course Daddy, I’ll be a Maths and Science teacher”. I smiled. My ‘subtle’ but constant reminders about the importance of maths and science to her future had obviously sunk in. But she wiped my smile away with her next question: “Daddy, will I be able to learn all those subjects together in school”? Because frankly, she probably won’t be able to.

Education systems tend to be set up as a series of T-junctions and filters. Starting at an early age, the vast majority of students are asked to make decisions between subjects, such as science and art perhaps. These seem like little decisions at the time, but once a child chooses at a young age not to study a science subject or take maths at a higher level, then that decision can have life altering repercussions for higher education choices and therefore career options later in their life. All the indicators show that growth in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related jobs will far outstrip the growth in traditional jobs over the next decade and that even today people with these qualifications are in short supply. So in general we need a larger supply of young men and women studying STEM subjects from a young age and for longer so that it can open up career opportunities for them while also solving the great societal challenges that face our world today.

And the problem is particularly stark for young girls. Influenced by traditional societal norms of what constitutes an acceptable career path for a young woman, girls participate in STEM related subjects at lower proportions. The situation deteriorates with each successive step with the numbers falling off a cliff when it comes to the proportion of women working in STEM careers in industry. In the UK, women make up 56% of the workforce but only 13% of the people working in STEM careers. In the US, the stats are a little better with women making up 58% of the workforce and 24% of the STEM related careers. Across Europe it is estimated that women make up just 30% of the STEM related careers. This is a problem both for those young girls who, through poor advice or societal pressure, cut themselves off from a vast array of the STEM-related careers of the future and it is also a problem for society in general. Better solutions are found by diverse teams with different backgrounds and perspectives. We just won’t find optimal creative solutions to the big societal challenges that face us all like climate change, smart sustainable cities, demographic change and renewable energy if we leave 50 per cent of the talent pool behind.

So we all have a role to play as parents, as employees and employers, and as citizens with an interest in improving our societies, to provide good academic and career advice, positive reinforcement, role models and mentorship to the young women in our countries to encourage them, through equal participation in STEM subjects and careers, to play an equal role in shaping our future societies. And maybe in about 20 years, some of them will be lucky enough to be taught Maths and Science by a confident young female Irish teacher who also loves art and ballet 😉

Find out more about Girls in ICT day (April 25) at Silicon Republic :


April 24, 2013 · 2:55 pm

Great free learning resources online

Its not all about Apple you know….
1. Code Year –
2. W3 Schools –
3. TED –
4. MIT –
5. iTunes U –
6. Khan Academy –
7. Peer 2 Peer University –
8. University of the People –
9. Academic Earth –
10. CK-12 –

From this article:

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Ireland’s USP

  1. Land of Saints and Scholars
  2. Green
  3. Networked


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What is Advanced Manufacturing?

There are a number of component parts to the definition of Advanced Manufacturing:

  • It consists of capital intensive industries with complex assembly methods.
  • It is focused on creating marketable knowledge-based goods and services.
  • It is characterised by a wide range of high-technologies involved in manufacturing, leading to improvements in terms of new product properties, production speed, cost, energy and materials consumption, operating precision, waste output reduction.
  • In the case of the Irish economy it represents a broad group which covers Bio Med, Pharma, ICT, Semi-conductor manufacturing and other industries.
  • It requiring significant investment in intellectual capital.  The reliance on capital equipment means nearly the same amount of staff is needed whether it is busy or slow.
  • It is export oriented in high volume.
  •  Advanced manufacturing facilities are often suited to produce more than one thing  – advanced manufacturing is not one size fits all. The products are complicated and the processes are unforgiving, demanding high levels of intellectual capital, and relentless pursuit of being best in class.

Do you have any thoughts on what other elements could be added to this definition?

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Dr Craig Barrett’s 3 pillars of a Smart Economy

Dr Craig Barrett speaks at the Royal Irish Academy Feb 2010I was delighted to attend a fascinating lecture by Craig Barrett, ex-CEO of Intel, on Monday February 8th at the Royal Irish Academy. Dr Barrett outlined his advice to Ireland if the country wishes to pursue its stated ambition of becoming a pre-eminent 21st century knowledge economy. His advice, delivered in his simple and direct style was organised into 3 pillars that needs to be in place for a smart economy to thrive:

1. Smart People

2. Smart Ideas

3. Right Environment (as created by Government Policy)

See more on Dr. Barrett’s speech at:

Dr. Barrett’s parting words for the country were – “If you want to win, you must choose to compete”.

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