Updates and Briefings

WSN Staff attend STEM Seminar with DEL Minister Stephen Farry MLA

Title: ‘Are you getting the balance right: is gender an issue for you?’
Organisers: DEL’s STEM Business Sub-group and the Equality Commission for NI
Date: 26 June 2013
Venue: Malone House
Attendees: Patricia Haren and Caroline Walsh

Outline

  1. Purpose: ‘to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) businesses to investigate the issues of gender bias in STEM and assist in identifying additional steps businesses can take to make careers in STEM attractive to women’.
  2. Introduction: Joanne Stuart (Chair, STEM Business Sub-group: SBSG)
  3. Keynote Address: Stephen Farry, MLA (DEL Minister) Other speakers: Anna Carragher (Commissioner, Equality Commission for NI) Lorna McAlpine (DEL STEM Coordinator) Brenda Bennett (Senior Personnel Representative, Schlumberger) Catherine O’Neill (Managing Director, Amelio Group)
  4. Roundtable Discussions
  5. Feedback & Close: Joanne Stuart (Chair, SBSG)

Key Points

  1. Introduction: Joanne Stuart (Chair, SBSG) Outlined SBSG’s role in taking forward industry-led recommendations contained within DE/DEL’s Success through STEM Strategy (2011). The STEM strategy addresses difficulties faced by STEM businesses within NI in recruiting and retaining STEM-skilled/qualified staff. Focussed on SBSG’s role in working to help address gender bias in STEM industries. Ratio of males to females in STEM-related industry jobs: 3 to 1.
  2. Keynote Address: Stephen Farry, MLA (DEL Minister) Described gender bias in STEM subjects and careers as both a gender equality issue and a broader economic issue. Affirmed his continuing commitment to addressing this gender bias. Explained how projected economic growth in NI relies heavy on a STEM-skilled/qualified workforce.
  3. Anna Carragher (Commissioner, Equality Commission for NI) Challenged the myth that equality is ‘a luxury that industry cannot afford’. Stated that the Equality Commission for NI encourages employers to undertake positive action to address the gender imbalance in STEM industries and to share ‘good practice’ on same.
  4. Lorna McAlpine (DEL STEM Coordinator) Introduced key developments in the work of SBSG in addressing STEM gender bias, notably the promotion of ‘good practice’ guidelines and formulation of a draft research report.
  5. Brenda Bennett (Senior Personnel Representative, Schlumberger) Explained the steps taken by her employer, Schlumberger, a global oil and gas company, to help address workforce gender imbalance by engaging with female students at local schools and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).
  6. Catherine O’Neill (Managing Director, Amelio Group) Outlined how she set up her own engineering company immediately following her graduation from QUB, what first attracted her to engineering and what inspired her to set up her business.
  7. Roundtable Discussions, Feedback & Close: Joanne Stuart (Chair, SBSG) Feedback from seminar participants highlighted a number of issues, including: the need to engage female pupils at primary level to stimulate interest in STEM subjects/careers; the need to challenge gender stereotypes and perceptions about male dominated industries; the need to consider how to encourage adult returners to education to engage with STEM subjects/careers; the need for mentoring, networking, role models and ongoing support to attract and sustain female participation in STEM subjects/careers; the need to consider key employment issues around career progression, promotion procedures and flexible working; and, the need to ensure that school career services are properly geared to encourage female engagement in STEM subjects/careers.