Women in STEM

2015 data – enrollments in Irish Universities (Mater Dei and St. Pat’s included as they are now incorporated into DCU.)


Note: gender balance in science reflects male dominance in physics and maths and female dominance in biology. Interestingly, there is parity (more or less) in chemistry.

Data is taken from new HEA website which is now excellent as it has loads of Excel files. The CAO people need to do likewise.

2 points:

  1. the idea that there is a lack of women in STEM is only partly correct.
  2. If you feel there is a need to address the lack of women in STEM, then you surely need to address the lack of men in Health/Welfare and probably in education as well.

About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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2 Responses to Women in STEM

  1. PC says:

    Hello, thanks for the posting. However it is well known that there are two separate problems with gender balance in STEM and other fields: one of “pipeline” and one of progression. In the case of life sciences and education there is no problem in pipeline whatsoever, but gender imbalance and inequalities are shocking when looking at career progression. I have often heard this argument of why not addressing the gender imbalance in primary education; the answer is that there is indeed a discussion trying to address the lack of men in education, but it is important to keep in mind that the gender imbalance is in the opposite direction when it regards career progression. For a quick description of the numbers in Ireland in education please see e.g. (https://www.into.ie/ROI/Publications/GenderImbalancePrimaryTeaching.pdf); when you look at Tables 1 and 2 and the analysis discussion it is clear that women are severely disadvantaged in career progression, independently of pipeline stats. So, plenty of women in education but their probability of occupying the highest paid positions are dismal compared to their male colleagues, resulting in a perfect “scissors diagram”. As regards life sciences a clear “scissors” type progression has been observed in various contexts, for example in academic progression see e.g. (PLoS Biol. 2006 Apr; 4(4): e97) among other reports on the subject. I have not looked at the data in health care rigorously but I recall that the proportion of women GPs is very high while heads of department are overwhelmingly male; sorry I have no reference at hand for this one at the moment…

    • Greg Foley says:

      Sure, I’ve absolutely no argument with the fact that there is progression problem and that is fundamentally a societal issue. I am skeptical, though, of the narrative that gender imbalances in certain disciplines are themselves a problem. Sure, there is some evidence that gender diverse organisations perform better but is the lack of female computer programmers, for example, really that much of a problem. (Of course the idea that young women might be turned away from computing and engineering due to social and cultural factors is not a good thing – everyone should be free to do what interests them without feeling like some sort of outcast or oddball). I would have thought that gender imbalances in many of the health/welfare disciplines (e.g physiotherapy, nutrition and dietetics, psychology and nursing) are more of a cause for comment/concern than in software engineering.

      But to reiterate, I do understand that the enrollment numbers are not reflective of career trajectories.

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