Governments of developed nations across the globe have put great emphasis on the importance of the education of its citizens in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). STEM subjects are of major importance to a modern economy and help a country continue to progress and be competitive as a nation. For Ireland to remain competitive in a world which is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, Ireland needs to focus on providing STEM education of the highest quality. The Irish economy relies heavily on FDI which creates thousands of jobs for people living in Ireland which are all closely related to STEM subjects.
As a result of this FDI, Ireland is now currently home to 10 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and there is a presence of over 75 pharmaceutical companies established in Ireland. The Biopharmaceutical industry has made a capital investment of approximately $8 billion in new facilities, all in recent years. It's not just the Life-sciences sector continuing to evolve as Ireland’s ICT sector is world-renowned and continues to flourish too. Nine of the world’s top 10 ICT companies are located here and the IDA supports over 200 firms. The industry employs over 37,000 people and generates €35 billion in exports annually.
Ireland is already experiencing a shortage of talent in STEM. ‘Innovation 2020’, Ireland’s strategy for Research and Development, Science and Technology, highlights the critical importance of excellence in STEM Education to ensure the continuous development of a pipeline of talent to support both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and an active ecosystem for indigenous start-ups.
While women account for 47% of the workforce, they are severely underrepresented in STEM and if you look back, things don’t seem to be getting any better. Ten years ago 46% of new entrants into STEM subjects in universities and Institute of Technologies were women and in 2013 that number dropped to 40%. In the same year there were just 436 female entrants into computer science at university level out of a total of 2,613, or 16% . Engineering, manufacturing and construction courses fare no better, with male entrants outnumbering females by four to one in. According to the CSO, out of almost 120,000 people working in STEM in Ireland, just a quarter are women. The phenomenon is not just an Irish one. Less than 7% of tech positions in Europe are filled by women.
There are many different causes to the underlying issue of a lack of gender diversity in STEM, however it is clear that a major factor of contribution is the selection of subjects and Third Level courses chosen by young women at secondary level. Parents, who are major influencers when guiding their daughters to STEM subjects generally lack information about career opportunities. Other factors, according to the Accenture report: Powering economic growth: Attracting more young women into science and technology (Accenture, 2014) include:
Negative stereotypes exist that STEM subjects and careers are more suitable for boys.
Although parents are the main influencers when it comes to advising their daughters on how to define educational and career paths, they lack information about career options.
There is fragmented information available about STEM careers, making it difficult for students and their parents to evaluate options.
A disconnect exists between industry’s skills needs and students’ subject choices for their Leaving Certificate Examinations.
There has been some clubs such as CoderDojo, Girls Hack Ireland and other initiatives that attract younger people which will have a significant impact later when those children are making choices. Not only do we need to change attitudes and perception for the future, an equal gender balance in today’s workforce is required, from junior to board level which can result in multiple benefits for an organisation.
Looking at the current workplace, here are our favourite 4 benefits of gender diversity.
Increase in productivity
Diversity and an inclusive workforce have a positive impact on satisfaction levels and in turn this raises employee engagement and increased performance. When people with different skills start working together, it can foster an environment of innovation and productivity. All of us have different talents, skillsets and attributes which help to widen your talent pool and help you gain access to new ideas and information.
Less diversity = less financial returns
According to McKinsey’s recent study on diversity in the workplace, companies who are in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnicity diversity are statistically less likely to achieve above average monetary returns compared to other companies in their data set. In the UK greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in their data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.
Source: McKinsey & Company. (2007). Women matter: Gender diversity, a corporate business driver, 12–14.
Gender diverse teams prodcue suprerior team dynamics, communication and productivity:
Lehman Brothers have conducted a study which examined 1,400 team members from 100 teams at 21 companies in 17 countries. The study found that gender-balanced teams were the most likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge, and fulfill tasks. The report also discovered that the most confident teams has a majority of women (60%).
Source: Lehman Brothers Centre for Woman in Business (2008). Innovative Potential: Men and women in teams.
Attracting the best talent
Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000 will play a major role in shaping the wold of work. They will soon be the majority in the workforce and will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025. As a result, organisations must be adaptive and have the ability to attract and retain the best talent. Technology, diversity and collaboration are big values to the Millennials and organisations that want to attract top talent must adhere to the same values. Millennials understand that gender diversity can help prevent companies from becoming too insular and out of touch with their varied customer base.
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Posted on: 02/08/17