Women are significantly less likely than men to view engineering as a suitable career choice, according to new research commissioned by engineering representative body Engineers Ireland. 

The research results were presented today at joint Engineers Ireland Medtronic STEM Forum addressed by Minister Thomas Byrne.

According to the study, carried out by Ipsos B&A on behalf of Engineers Ireland, 39% of women say they do not view engineering as a suitable career, compared to just 29% of men.  Similarly, over a third of women respondents said they would not consider the profession if starting a career, or pursuing a career change.

The findings of this research were presented today at the Engineers Ireland STEM Opportunities’ Leaders Forum in Buswells Hotel Dublin, supported by global healthcare technology leader Medtronic. The Forum brought together leaders from across the public sector, education, and industry to consider issues of importance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, and related sectors of the economy.

Engineers continue to be in high demand in the jobs market. A wide range of engineering professionals remain on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s Critical Skills Occupations List, while figures published by SOLAS, the State jobs agency, show that 13 per cent of all professional vacancies in 2022 were for engineering professionals. Separate research carried out by Engineers Ireland has found that 72 per cent of employers are concerned that the shortage of engineers with the correct skills is a major barrier to business growth.

Furthermore, according to the Higher Education Authority just 23 per cent engineering graduates in Ireland were female last year, while female engineers represent just 12 per cent of the profession, with many who graduate from engineering courses then choosing alternative careers.

Attending the Forum, Minister Thomas Byrne TD, said: “STEM plays a pivotal role in shaping Ireland’s future. The Government’s commitment to advancing STEM is evident in the dedication and passion exhibited by schools across the country in their pursuit of excellence in STEM education. Today's forum presents a valuable opportunity to promote best practices and encourage broader participation in vital sectors such as engineering.  I commend Engineers Ireland, Medtronic and all of the participants involved.”

Damien Owens, Director General of Engineers Ireland, said: “We have vital responsibility to address imbalances within STEM professions and ensure that all sections of our society feel equally comfortable taking up a career in engineering. For years women have had to overcome a number of societal and structural obstacles in the workplace and it is clear that, when it comes to engineering, barriers remain. Today’s Forum offers an opportunity to consider ways in which these barriers can be dismantled and circumvented and how industry can work with public bodies and policy-setters to realise this goal.”

Ronan Rogers, Senior R&D Director with Medtronic, said: “We recognise that building teams with diverse perspectives and backgrounds is crucial for the innovation required to bring life-saving technologies to patients. Unfortunately as the research launched today shows, the STEM field continues to fall short in attracting women and other under- represented groups . Medtronic and our partners work to remove barriers to education and career development, we believe this will lead to more innovation and creativity that will ultimately help treat even more people around the world.”