It is widely cited that a diverse working environment allows for different perspectives, ideas and subsequently greater success. Despite this belief, we are still faced with a male dominated candidate pool across engineering disciplines in the Life Science industry in Ireland. A recent study conducted by Engineers Ireland found that there is a 9:1 ratio of male: female engineers in industry, with men 50% more likely to reach senior level positions throughout their careers.
One of Ireland’s key selling points to encourage FDI is our highly educated workforce - with an average of 66,000 graduates a year, we are well positioned to attract the top industry players! Although there are a high number of graduates every year, only 8% are studying engineering disciplines. Worryingly, despite there being on average 3,500 more female than male students in higher education only 20% of those studying engineering are female (HEA, 2015).
The lack of correlation between our graduate workforce and the demands on our critical skills list is concerning, along with the clear lack of female talent entering engineering roles.
The answer is a multipronged approach. The first step is in encouraging schools, parents and mentors to educate young children, both girls and boys, about the diverse array of opportunities available in engineering and to remove the stigma that engineering is a masculine discipline. There is also a need for a push in encouraging the uptake of technical subjects in schools such as Maths, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Technical Drawing etc. amongst both male and females. Greater links between industry and educational bodies is the key to establishing career focused schooling.
There is also a need for industry to take a proactive role in inspiring young talent. Providing students with first-hand industry experience, from both a female and male perspective, could ultimately help to leverage an interest in the industry for both genders. Female and male role models should visit primary and secondary schools also, not just universities, to discuss opportunities available in the industry and specific companies.
In an age where millennials care not only about what a company does but how they do it, including their ethics, contributions to their community and awareness of their environment, it is imperative that industry highlights the difference that the Life Science industry makes in the lives of millions of patients globally, their environmental consciousness and commitment to quality.
Finally, it is down to each of us as individuals to act as ambassadors for the Life Science industry and as ambassadors for Ireland as a hub of Innovation. It is our responsibility to encourage, attract and engage both male and female talent and to educate them on the wonderful potential available in engineering careers. It is imperative that we no longer rely on someone else to build our future talent pool.