Celebrating International Women's Day, University of Limerick (UL) collaborated with Dell EMC to host an event exploring the challenges of 'Changing Mindsets' in the working world. The event, supported by Johnson & Johnson, was attended by members of the Mid-West business and education community and focussed on encouraging more females in to science, technology, engineering and maths-related sectors, as part of Engineers Week 2017.
The event began with a series of speakers including Professor Paul McCutcheon, VP Academic & Registrar, UL and Fiona McCarthy, Vice President for Human Resources, Dell EMC.
Opening the event, Fiona McCarthy, Vice President for Human Resources, Dell EMC said: “Dell EMC is delighted to host today’s event. We’ve been working closely with the team at University of Limerick in the build up to today and I think we’ll all agree we’ve an exciting line up of speakers. As a company we are very focused on the area of diversity in the workforce. Not just regarding gender but also in terms of inclusion of employees with different cultural backgrounds and abilities. We understand that managing diversity and championing an inclusive culture is essential to our collective success. For a global business with a global customer base, it makes sense to have people working on our team that our customers can relate to and easily engage with”.
According to Dr Mary Shire, Vice President Research, UL: "Understanding the barriers and misconceptions that females face in terms of STEM is complex. The student-led research being carried out at UL through the WiSTEM2D programme is exploring these barriers and misconceptions and will provide us with a better understanding that can lead to changes in how we address these in a more holistic and evidence based way”.
Helen Shaw from Athena Media chaired the day with a series of breakout discussions. Each of the discussions explored different areas where changing mindsets and achieving greater gender balance need to be considered. The first focused on WiSTEM2D, a project led by Johnson & Johnson and University of Limerick.
According to Jim Breen, Vice-President, Worldwide Engineering and Technical Operations, Johnson & Johnson, “building a diverse STEM2D community is one approach Johnson & Johnson is taking as part of a broader effort to accelerate the development of women leaders and to support women at all stages of their lives. One of our objectives of this partnership was to build on UL’s ongoing work to expand the reach and quality of STEM education, and to attract more women to fields traditionally dominated by men”.
A number of UL students participating in the WiSTEM2D programme attended the event, and prizes were presented for projects undertaken by some of those students.
This year International Women’s Day falls during Engineers Week, a national week held annually to highlight the career opportunities within the sector. Recognising Engineers Week, a specific discussion was held focused on engineering and encouraging more females into the sector with: Andrew Tindle, VP Manufacturing, Dell EMC; Niamh Colman, Manufacturing Engineer, Johnson & Johnson; and Caroline Spillane, Director General, Engineers Ireland.
According to Ms Spillane, “Lack of diversity in engineering is a concern in many countries and it is a priority issue for Engineers Ireland. Our future engineers will help to modernise a better Ireland – and all voices need to be heard. To deliver the best creative solutions to societal needs, we need to narrow the gender gap and create balance within the profession. Engineers Ireland has sought to address the gender divide at a grassroots level through our nationwide STEPS initiative, where we encourage all young people to actively explore the world of STEM while also promoting engineering as an exciting and diverse career choice”.
The last session of the day explored the unconscious gender bias in the workplace with a series of presentations by Dan Roberston, Diversity and Inclusion Director, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI); Sam Blanckensee, National Development Officer, Transgender Equality Network Ireland and Joy Neville, Former Ireland Rugby captain, Grand Slam winner and first female to officiate at European rugby match.
The International Women's Day event was hosted by Dell EMC and University of Limerick with the support of Johnson & Johnson. Just over 200 people from the Mid-West community from business and education attended the event. On Dell EMC campuses in Cork and Dublin smaller celebrations for International Women’s Day were held both focused on highlighting diversity across all areas of the business.
University of Limerick also held other International Women's Day events, including one focussing on women in the media, organised by the university's Department of Journalism. Speakers at that event included RTE's Mid-West correspondent, Cathy Halloran, Gillian Devlin Head of News, Limerick’s Live 95FM, Fiona Stack, General Manager, Radio Kerry, Laura Ryan Head of Marketing and Communications, Limerick City and County Council and Tara Giddens, PhD candidate, UL.