New Pfizer research has suggested that 15pc of men in Ireland work in STEM compared with 7pc of women.
The 2020 Pfizer Health and Science Index has looked at attitudes towards working in STEM, surveying 1,050 people in Ireland through online interviews over the summer.
It found that one in 10 people work in a STEM profession, but there is a significant gap in the number of men and women in these areas in Ireland. According to the survey, 15pc of men work in STEM but just 7pc of women do. This is despite the fact that 35pc of people surveyed believe Ireland has more opportunities in the field than anywhere else.
Just one in eight people said they have high-level knowledge of science and nearly half (49pc) said they have moderate knowledge. Men and younger adults were more likely to suggest they had a high level of knowledge, according to Pfizer.
Nearly half (47pc) of respondents said they saw achieving the Leaving Cert points required for a third-level STEM course as too difficult. The majority (79pc) said that STEM should be a higher priority in primary school education.
Almost two-thirds of the respondents said that graduating from a STEM degree guarantees better career prospects than graduating with a non-STEM qualification. Overall, 59pc said that scientific advances have become more important due to Covid-19.
Commenting on the research, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said that it sheds light on the barriers that still exist in perceptions of STEM.
“We can also see the imbalance in the representation of women in STEM professions,” he said. “It demonstrates to me as minister the huge body of work we have to do to excite and encourage people about science and its impact on our daily lives. We need science more than ever in this post-Covid world and we want and need Ireland to be a leader in this field.”
Dr Ruth Freeman, director of science for society at Science Foundation Ireland, who recently spoke at Future Human 2020, added that the research reinforces the importance of STEM subjects in Ireland.
“Through the continued promotion of STEM, we will have a workforce that is well positioned to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow,” she said. “This pandemic has taught us that we must be prepared for the next unknown and equally how we all turn to science in times of uncertainty.”
The research findings have been launched alongside a Pfizer and Science Gallery campaign called Speed of Science. The digital-led initiative looks the history of vaccines and how scientific advancement has impacted society over time, from personal to global-scale immunity.
The gallery’s acting director, Gerard McHugh, said: “We’re living in unprecedented times; never before have so many worked at such speed in such a collaborative manner, and never before has there been such a focus on the work of scientists. Everyday there is new information about vaccines and viruses.”