More Women Needed In STEM Subjects

More women in Northern Ireland need to pursue a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

This was the announcement made by Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry today as he addressed the Assembly on issues relating to employment, learning and skills.

The Minister spoke on a range of gender equality issues facing Northern Ireland.

He highlighted in particular that females, despite gaining strong educational attainments in the further and higher education fields, are less likely than males to pursue careers in areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

The Minister said: "We need an economy in Northern Ireland that operates as efficiently as possible. The World Economic Forum has found a strong correlation between a country’s competitiveness and how it educates and uses the skills of women.

"We need to encourage young women to consider STEM subjects and careers. On leaving school, females tend to be better qualified than males. Females are also more likely to progress to higher education with around 60% of our university enrolments being female.

"However, despite proportionately more females participating in higher education than males, females account for less than 30% of those graduating in STEM subjects (excluding medicine and health). Over 70% of students in ICT and over 75% of those studying Engineering and Technology are male.

"Also, in apprenticeship schemes, less than 9% of participants in an apprenticeship in science technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM-related areas are female."

Alliance South Belfast MLA Anna Lo said she hopes the gender imbalance with regard to STEM subjects can be address by raising issues with regard to employment, skills and learning.

She said: "With worrying statistics on gender issues relating to employment, skills and learning, I was heartened that the Minister is giving this issue the priority it deserves.

"In the Further Education sector, around 25% of male participants are studying science and mathematics, engineering and manufacturing technologies or ICT, compared to only 13% of females.

"In the Higher Education sector, over 70% of students in computer science and over 75% of those studying engineering and technology are male. And in employment, in STEM related industries, only 25% of employees are female."

Ms Lo continued: "If we do not seek to encourage more women into STEM subjects and jobs, then we will miss a great opportunity to grow our economy. By encouraging women to have the same level of participation as men in key sectors such as ICT, we could encourage more inward investment."


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