#PressforProgress on International Women’s Day

Thursday 8th March 2018

University of Limerick (UL) hosted its 10th annual International Women’s Day conference on Thursday the 8th March 2018. The conference entitled #PressforProgress was supported by Northern Trust, Johnson & Johnson, Dell EMC and Bank of Ireland and was attended by members of the Mid-West business and education community. UL has placed Gender Equality to the fore for many years and to this end we have made some significant advancement with regard to the representation of women at our most senior levels over the past 10 years moving from an 8% representation of women at full professorial level in 2007 to a 31% representation today compared to the national average of 21%.

The conference was chaired by Brid Horan, former Deputy CEO of ESB and a member of the steering committee and former chair of the 30% Club, formed in 2015 with a goal to achieve better gender balance at all levels in leading Irish businesses.

Contributors from across industry and academia discussed the topic of Women Pressing for Progress. Panellists included: Fiona De Búrca, Partner, PWC; Melíosa O'Caoimh, Managing Director - Northern Trust Fund Services (Ireland) Limited, Michelle Keating, Co-Founder and Chair of Women for Election; Carol Widger, Partner, Maples and Calder; and, Bob Savage, VP for Marketing and GM, Dell EMC.

UL lecturer Brenda Romero, a BAFTA award-winning game designer, artist and Fulbright scholar spoke about her experience since she entered the video game industry in 1981. As a designer, she has worked on 47 games and contributed to many seminal titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series and titles in the Ghost Recon, Dungeons & Dragons and Def Jam franchises.

Further discussion focussed on the challenges facing Women in STEM. Among those to address this were: Sarah Tully, Executive Lead for HE R&D, Bank of Ireland; UL’s Professor Edmond Magner, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering; Kyran Johnson, General Manager, Janssen Sciences Ireland; and, Dr Mary Moloney, lecturer and researcher in Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Cork Institute of Technology.

Also at the conference, Ian Headon, Senior Vice President of Northern Trust interviewed former Ireland rugby international David Wallace who is also Regional Business Development Manager at Bank of Ireland.

A number of second and third year UL students participating in the WiSTEM2D programme were presented with awards at the event. The WiSTEM2D: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing, and Design (STEM2D) programme was established by Johnson & Johnson in 2015 with the aim of providing additional support at undergraduate level and encouraging women into exciting STEM careers.

A total of 20 students from science, technology, engineering, maths, manufacturing, and design courses were selected to participate in the WiSTEM2D Team Projects in 2017. As part of the programme, these students met at workshops where they discussed their experiences as women pursuing a career in STEM, listened to female STEM role models and engaged in projects that aimed to challenge STEM stereotypes. Each student was allocated a J&J mentor and provided with the opportunities to visit J&J manufacturing sites. The students worked in groups to produce five videos that aimed to specifically target stereotypes in design, engineering, biology, technology and chemistry. At the IWD event, the students displayed their projects and the winning team was presented with a trophy and an additional bursary.

An addition to this year’s conference was the inclusion of the ‘fireside’ chat during lunch in the Millstream Restaurant with Pat Carroll, Innovation Community Manager, Bank of Ireland with a member of each of the winning WiSTEM2D project teams.