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Women in STEM

A Matrix report has led the Department for the Economy plans to encourage women into STEM careers.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) has long recognised that Northern Ireland’s skills shortage in science and technology sectors could be addressed at least in part by encouraging girls to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at A level and beyond.

The Matrix 2018 Women in STEM report identified a range of issues and recommended that by 2030, 33 per cent of young people moving into STEM careers in Northern Ireland should be girls, arguing that encouraging more women into STEM and supporting them to remain in this area could go a long way to solving Northern Ireland’s persistent skills shortages.

As a direct result of this study, the Department for the Economy appointed a Women in STEM Steering Group in 2020 to further develop the report’s recommendations. The steering group has worked closely with DfE and other stakeholders to develop an Action Plan for Women in STEM in Northern Ireland that will underpin the Department’s Vision for a 10X Economy and other complementary strategies.

DfE is already taking forward some of the ‘must do’ actions contained in the plan, including creating a detailed map of the Northern Ireland women in STEM ecosystem, developing a deeper understanding of the influences on girls aged from 0-5 and through the transition into primary school and undertaking further research into the known challenges faced by other economies seeking to increase the number of women in STEM.

There is a significant amount of communication and outreach work going on too, including sponsorship of eight Northern Ireland female founders on the Awakenhub Shegenerate programme and ‘21st Century Girls’, a virtual work experience project run by Speakers for Schools with local companies including Almac, Kainos, Greiner and Allstate. There is also a website, pulsar.live, named in honour of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Northern Ireland astrophysicist who discovered pulsar stars, signposting all the latest Northern Ireland news, events and opportunities for women in STEM.

In June 2021, the steering group endorsed projects to go forward in a departmental bid for funding through the Economic Recovery Action Plan (ERAP). This bid was successful and projects which aim to raise the confidence and aspirations of young people in STEM education and improve the visibility of STEM pathways and careers are now underway.

All this work has recently been recognised at a national level, with the DfE team awarded runners up in the WISE Unsung Covid Heroes Diversity and Inclusion Award and highly commended in the Women in Business NI Diversity and Inclusion Award. The Co-Chair of the Women in STEM Steering Group, Bryan Keating, has also been shortlisted for the WIBNI Women in Tech Male Advocate Award.

For more information contact
Vicky Newman at
pulsar@economy-ni.gov.uk or visit http://pulsar.live

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