Ireland ranks 34th of 36 OECD countries in terms of gender balance among engineering graduates, an Engineers Ireland report has revealed.

It was found that most female engineers (56%) feel that the engineering sector in Ireland has better opportunities for men than it does for women, a view shared by the majority of Irish adults (57%). 

OECD figures also indicate that in Ireland just 14% of bachelor’s graduates from engineering-related programmes are women, compared to the top performers such as Iceland (42%), Poland (40%) and Sweden (37%), with the OECD average 25%.

Positive developments

Positive developments in the Engineers Ireland report, ‘Engineering 2020: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’, however, were that girls comprise the majority of students who sit Junior Certificate higher-level papers in both science and mathematics (51%). 

Overall, at Junior Certificate level, 35% of higher-level STEM subject sittings (excluding science) are by female students, an increase of four percentage points in the past five years.

For the Leaving Certificate, 44% of higher-level STEM sittings are by girls, again an increase of 1.7 percentage points in the past five years.  However, this proportion is skewed by the number of female students taking higher-level biology (63%) and chemistry (59%). Just 28% of higher-level physics students are girls, the report stated.

Marguerite Sayers, president of Engineers Ireland, said: “Bridging the gender gap must be a key driver in engineering and wider STEM education in Ireland. 

"While it is encouraging to note an increase in the numbers of girls taking higher-level Junior and Leaving Certificate STEM papers, the reality is we are still behind the curve in Ireland.

"The government’s STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026 aims to increase by 40% the number of girls taking STEM subjects – and the drive to bridge this gender gap and achieve this target must be a joint government, industry and academic effort. 

Tackling the engineering skills shortfall

"It is vital we foster more career opportunities in the engineering industry for our ambitious and talented female students, as well as tackling the engineering skills shortfall that continues to hamper key economic sectors in Ireland.”

Supported by Engineers Ireland’s Diversity Group, the STEPS Girls’ Summit: Exploring Engineering and Climate Change Solutions event in Explorium today staged engineering workshops and panel discussions for the 100 young female students present, and involved keynote presentations from other senior female engineers such as Victoria Janssens, a senior structural engineer working in the Buildings Engineering Group of Arup Dublin, and Suzanne Meade, a road safety specialist at Transport Infrastructure Ireland. 

The students learned about the issues facing engineers through a range of interactive and fun experiments and investigated engineering solutions that can build sustainable solutions to safeguard humanity.

To access the Engineering 2020 report in full, visit: