Early teaching of mathematics and technology subjects needs to be reviewed if the gender gap in technology is to be addressed. This was stated by Professor Mike Hinchey, director of Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre at the publication of the organisation’s annual report.

“There is no reason why women cannot be as successful as men in computing but evidence suggests that many girls are turned off at an early age by its geeky, anti-social, overly masculine, nerdy image.”

Professor Hinchey also pointed to recent US research* which suggested that the gender gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects may be due to  men overestimating  their capabilities in maths compared to women.

“At a time when European Commission has warned that there could be a digital skills gap resulting in up to 825,000 vacancies in Europe by 2020,**  girls need to be encouraged and STEM subjects made more relevant if the technology sector is not to continue to lose this vital talent pool at an early age.”

Lero has been running computing summer camps in Limerick aimed specifically at girls aged from 14 up as part of a Google international award. “In these we show how technology is all about computational thinking, problem solving and creativity. Early research from these camps suggests that if you make technology more interesting and relevant then girls will be just as enthusiastic about the subject,” commented Professor Hinchey.

In the annual report, Prof Hinchey states that 2014 was an important year for Lero following its selection as one of five new world class SFI Research Centres in Ireland as part of a Government and industry funding programme worth €245m.

With the addition of researchers from UCC and NUI Maynooth, Lero now combines the top software research talents across all of the country’s universities plus Dundalk IT. “This level of research collaboration across the third level sector is we believe unique in the world.  As a result, it can only help to enhance Ireland’s reputation as a key global centre for the establishment of multinational and indigenous software companies,” commented Prof Hinchey.

He added, “We are one of the infrastructural reasons why nine out of the ten top software companies in the world are located in Ireland. At the same time, we are playing a role as an important resource for Ireland’s growing indigenous software sector.”

The Lero report states that it filed three patent applications in 2014 to add to its existing portfolio of 22 patents. Since its foundation, it has produced 47 PhD graduates and currently has another 65 on its books.   

Lero is funded by Science Foundation Ireland as well as by contracts from Irish and international technology corporations.

Sources: *

“Gender Gaps in Overestimation of Math Performance” – Shane W. Bench, Heather C Lench, Jeffrey Liew, Kathi Miner, Sarah A. Flores.