The WiSTEM2D programme aims to support female undergraduates enrolled in STEM-related courses.
The second year of the WiSTEM2D collaboration between University of Limerick (UL) and Johnson & Johnson was launched today (13 September), to support women in STEM courses.
WiSTEM2D stands for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing and Design, and is part of Johnson & Johnson’s strategy to boost the number of women working in these industries.
Just 10 universities were selected by the company to participate in WiSTEM2D, with UL being the only Irish institution. UL is known for its emphasis on STEM – indeed, Ireland’s national centre for STEM education, Epi-Stem, is located on the campus.
Only 25pc of STEM workers in Ireland are women, and student research carried out at UL during the first year of WiSTEM2D highlighted that female students account for just 26pc of undergrads in the Science and Engineering faculty.
Women in STEM underestimating themselves
The research found further causes for concern around women in STEM. President of UL, Dr Desmond Fitzgerald, explained that “female students participating in the study reported feeling isolated in male-dominated classes and, perhaps most worryingly, females’ perception of their own intelligence was poor, even though their grades were equal to those of their male counterparts”.
The importance of increasing the amount of female STEM representatives was also underlined in the research responses.
Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, said at the launch that “many of the world’s most innovative enterprises are in the STEM disciplines and we need more women choosing to pursue STEM careers in Ireland. The under-representation of women in the STEM workforce has to be addressed.”
She continued by highlighting the WiSTEM2D partnership between UL and Johnson & Johnson as “an excellent example of higher education and business working together to address this problem”.
An empowering message
Dr Leisha Daly, country director of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical company, Janssen Ireland, said that more than 300 employees had come forward to volunteer their time to the initiative.
Speaking on behalf of the students that participated in the first year of WiSTEM2D, Niamh Sheahan was effusive in her praise of the scheme. “Being part of the WiSTEM2D programme has provided so many amazing opportunities for me and I look forward to passing on all I’ve learned, and to passing on the empowering message to those following in my footsteps.”