Brussels, 18 Apr 2005
The Irish government has announced that it will introduce three new programmes to address the under-representation of women in science and engineering.
The objective of the new initiatives is to encourage the development of sustainable mechanisms and practices which will ensure that women have an equal opportunity to compete on the basis of their scientific expertise, knowledge and potential, states Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).
According to the Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, the funding is designed to offset a situation where a significant number of women are leaving scientific carriers to raise families.
'The EU Member States have committed to increasing their R&D [research and development] spending to three per cent of GDP by 2010. In Ireland, this translates to a need to recruit 12,500 additional researchers,' said Mr Martin. 'Women represent a significant and relatively untapped resource from which many of these additional researchers can be recruited,' he added.
While in Ireland more girls than boys take science for their Leaving Certificate, and women are well represented at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in most scientific and technological disciplines, there is a serious gender imbalance further up the career ladder. In industrial research, for example, women account for less that 25 per cent of workers and are mostly employed in support roles. Women also hold less than 25 per cent of the positions on scientific boards and councils, and only a small percentage of senior academic positions.
Ireland's experience is replicated across the EU, where, despite representing 44 per cent of graduates in science and technology subjects, women make up just 14 per cent of top academics in these fields.
'The Irish Government shares the Commission's concern about the role of women in science and I am delighted to say that Ireland is taking the lead with today's announcement that three programmes will be funded by SFI, which are aimed at addressing the under-representation of women in Irish science and engineering research,' said Minister Martin.
'The issue is not simply a matter of equality - ensuring that all careers are open to men and women alike - but also one of ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of researchers in science, engineering and technology to support the knowledge-based economy the government has committed to building. There is a clear and unequivocal business case for increasing the participation of women in science, engineering and technology in Ireland. The returns on these investments will include world-class research, positive role models and increased female participation in Irish research,' concluded Mr Martin.