Cork ‘Does the Math’ to solve STEM issues in girls’ schools

18 Apr 2013

Concerned industry and business leaders in Cork have banded together to raise awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in girls’ schools. The Cork Does the Math group will hold workshops in a number of national and secondary schools in Cork City on 25 April, International Girls in ICT Day.

The initiative, spearheaded by Grainne Bagnall of technology recruitment firm Claran Consultants, will see a national schools workshop take place at Scoil Muire Junior School. At the ‘Redefining K-12 Education’ workshop, Thoughtbox CEO Cristina Luminea will teach kids how to create short animated stories.

At Christ King Secondary School, Heather James, manager of Learning Services at Acquia, and Hilary Quinn, managing director of Proximo Web Design, will hold a web development workshop. This will be followed by a presentation on what businesses expect from graduates by Mairead Cummins, graduate programme manager at GlaxoSmithKline Ireland.

The day will conclude with a panel discussion at UCC chaired by it@cork chairman Denis Collins and which will include Senator Deirdre Clune, Seanad spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation; serial entrepreneur Ann O’Leary; and the CEO of GE Ireland Pascal McCarthy.

Bagnall said the issue of STEM needs to be highlighted more for national and secondary school girls and their parents.

“This is an issue that needs to be highlighted. If you look at the CAO applications, subjects like computer science are too far down the list of choices made by Leaving Cert girls. We’ve gone into schools and asked them what are their top choices and inevitably it is nursing and teaching.

“When we ask parents they mention the crash – that was 13 years ago!

“So something needs to be done. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, TD, has taken on a massive task in reforming the curriculum and getting more schools built, but we think it is important to tackle awareness at national school level.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

Bagnall mentioned Rockborough School in Cork, where parents and teachers agreed to create extra science and revision classes after school hours to address the low emphasis on STEM subjects in Irish schools.

A similar initiative may be needed across the board in Irish girls’ schools.

“We have found that in some schools they spend just one hour a week on science but  50 minutes on roll call and two and a half hours on religion.”

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Bagnall pointed to the CoderDojo that takes place at Blackrock Observatory in Cork and which boasts the biggest proportion of girls taking part out of all the dojos in Ireland.

The chairman of Claran Consultants Mike Halpin said it is crucial more girls are encouraged to learn how to code and take up STEM subjects.

“Given that only 23pc of all programmers in the US are female, we feel that it is not enough to just encourage maths and science on a generic level, but to demonstrate that there is a fruitful and rewarding career when one understands that learning maths could be fun,” Halpin said.

Girl coder image via Shutterstock

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s year-long campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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