More must be done to address gender imbalance in STEM education and careers, says Maria Walsh

Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh says more must be done to encourage women to pursue STEM education and careers in order to address the gender imbalance in technical and other high level jobs in this sector.

She was speaking as the European Parliament voted on a file to promote gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM ) education and careers.

MEP Walsh said: “There is a clear and proven gender imbalance when it comes to STEM education and careers and it is vital that we address this imbalance. We have to remove the barriers that exist and are preventing women from pursuing education and careers in this sector. There has to be access to financial aid and supports for women to follow this path. It is simple - we need more women in STEM.

“As part of my role on the Employment Committee, I have been working on a file that looks at pay transparency and the gender pay gap. Through that work it has only been reiterated the many barriers women face when it comes to getting on the career ladder, having adequate childcare provisions in place if they do decide to pursue further education or take up a high level job and potentially facing being paid less for doing the same job as their male counterparts. Sometimes it is simply not viable for them.”

Tackling the imbalance in the west and northwest of Ireland is crucial according to MEP Walsh.

She added: “The vote this week focused on promoting gender equality in STEM education and careers. Through its amendments, the EPP group, of which Fine Gael is a part of, emphasised the need to adopt a multi-level approach to address the gender gap in all levels of education and employment in the digital sector, the importance of raising awareness on digital opportunities and mentoring schemes with female role models for girls and women, in order to prioritise diversity and and inclusion in STEM.

“We have the opportunity to tackle this imbalance in the west and northwest of Ireland over the coming years in the education sector, with the formation of a new Connacht-Ulster University, after a formal application was submitted by three institutes of technology recently to become a technological university.

As well as undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the TU will offer a broad range of other programmes supporting local enterprise. Engagement with women to find out what they need to support them in availing of such courses, is the way we can develop programmes that will work.”

A number of issues have been identified by MEP Walsh. “When we talk about the lack of women in high level jobs and careers, we must also look at other barriers preventing them from entering specific sectors, such as politics,” she added.

“Here there are barriers like cyber violence, which has been so topical of late, which deters women from wanting to run for office. I am working on a file within the LIBE Committee on combating gender based cyberviolence.

“Some of the research presented by Professor Tom Felle during that event was shocking and showed the targeting of women in politics online with horrific abuse. We need to tackle this issue while offering assurances to women who may wish to run for office, that we are doing something to address it, while encouraging and supporting them to follow their path.” She concluded: “There are many issues affecting women entering into high level education or jobs. We need to tackle the root cause of these issues as I’ve outlined and only then will this clear imbalance be addressed.”


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