There’s certainly no gender imbalance in digital humanities!

20 May 2015

Unlike many areas of STEM, the demographic of people in the ever-growing field of digital humanities falls roughly 50/50 down gender lines.

The general science field sees just 15pc of its workforce populated by women, but over half of the Digital Repository of Ireland’s (DRI) workforce are women, claims Sandra Collins, the organisation’s director.

Collins was actually listed as one of Silicon Republic’s 100 top women in science, technology, engineering and maths in 2014.

“The gender balance at DRI is reflected right across the growing digital humanities field in Ireland and the UK, where the breakdown of male to female researchers is on average about 50/50,” says Collins, speaking ahead of the launch of a comprehensive report on digital humanities in Ireland by the DRI, which is actually a partner institute of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

Gender balance and digital humanities

For those who are perhaps unaware, the whole area of digital humanities is essentially the application of ICT research to areas of humanities, advancing both fields and allowing innovation and creativity outside the traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Inspiring Ireland is a recent example of what digital humanities works towards. The project brings Ireland’s national cultural treasures – such as digitised paintings, letters, sculpture, manuscripts, and photography – to an international audience, creating a national portal for Ireland’s exceptional cultural heritage.

“Once rendered into digital format, artefacts and records become a new and rich source of information for scholarship that can be interrogated and mined in illuminating ways,” says Collins. “Data analytics can be used to identify patterns and answer new questions directly from the digital format. We have particular strength in ICT in Ireland.”

What can we do?

“In the context of government policies to increase female participation in STEM, and lots of positive action in the area, here is a field that is evolving gender balance organically. We should look to the digital humanities sector for clues as to how to address imbalance in other areas of STEM.”

There’s no clear reason as to why the gender make up is so even in this niche area of our incredibly broad STEM environment, however Collins’ own personal motivation to seek work with technology “for societal benefit” is something that could be key.

“I wonder if other women feel the same,” she says.

Man and woman at work, via Shutterstock

Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin that connects sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic