Girls Hack Ireland at Dublin City University aims to tip the gender balance

20 Mar 2015

Ahead of the Girls Hack Ireland event in Dublin City University on Saturday, leading women scientists warn of the risks of allowing the gender gap to widen.

At a time when Ireland is striving to be an innovation economy, we’re on a hiding to nothing if we don’t bring our great young female talent along on the innovation wave, according to some of our leading academics.

“If we do not radically change the perception of STEM and encourage more women to follow a career in STEM subjects, our investment in innovation in science and engineering in Ireland is at risk,” said Prof Christine Loscher, an immunologist at DCU.

She pointed to the fact that, despite various efforts, the number of teenage girls choosing STEM subjects is decreasing. Out of 2,613 applicants to study computer science in 2013, only 436 were female, according to figures from the Higher Education Authority. Overall the percentage of girls choosing STEM subjects has fallen from a high of 47pc ten years ago to 40pc today.

Loscher was speaking ahead of the Insight Girls Hack Ireland event at Dublin City University tomorrow, Saturday (March 21), which will see 100 teenage girls from all over the country coming together to learn computer coding skills from leading female computer scientists. Speakers at the event include Stemettes founder Anne-Marie Imafidon, who will return to Dublin to speak at our Inspire 2015 event in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in June.  Our CEO Ann O’Dea, who is organising Inspire, will also give a talk at the event on the exciting opportunities for young women in digital, tech and science careers.

Girls Hack Ireland at Inspire 2015

“I’m delighted to be involved in this great event,” said O’Dea. “I am also particularly pleased to announce that a Girls Hack Ireland hardware session will also be a part of our free Inspire 2015 outreach programme on Saturday morning, June 20, along with CoderDojo and Coding Grace, among others. We were very keen to include a strong programme for parents and kids that would be free of charge.” Keep an eye on the Inspire 2015 website for updates on this.

The Girls Hack Ireland event is one of the series of activities designed to get female students more involved in STEM. The event, organised by Insight Centre for Data Analytics, will see 100 girls from all over the country compete for prizes in a one day hacking event led by mentors from industry and academia. Many of the girls will be coding for the first time.

“Programmes that provide an opportunity to engage girls, parents, teachers and mentors in learning and talking about technology and related career opportunities can make a difference,” said Dr Suzanne Little, a Research Fellow at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. “Programmes like Girls Hack Ireland  helped me to become interested in computing and I’ve ended up as a research scientist.”

Girls Hack Ireland takes place in The Hub in DCU from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, March 21, 2015, and there will be a further Girls Hack Ireland as part the Fringe Festival of Inspire 2015 on Saturday June 20 (entry is free on Saturday but will require registration).

Girl on laptop image via Shutterstock

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