Science bosses redouble their efforts to recruit more women into the sector


A public body responsible for funding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research will revise its gender strategy with the aim of attracting more women to the sector.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will hire a consultant to review its current strategy and advise on policies and practices to support equality, diversity and inclusion.

It is also part of a process of maintaining access to European funding.

Government agencies and funding bodies such as SFI are required to have a gender equality plan in place by next year and fulfill new eligibility criteria to retain access to Horizon Europe funds, the EU’s € 95.5 billion program for research and innovation in areas such as climate change.

The review will examine how SFI’s inclusion strategy affects the organizations and people it deals with. An internal part of the strategy is developed separately.

The consultant will be asked to assess the success of IFC’s current gender strategy, identify areas that need to be considered when developing a new plan and “detail the actions required for a new plan.” ‘action to ensure that SFI continues to be a leader in addressing research inequalities in Ireland. ”.

For the past ten years, SFI has been developing initiatives aimed at encouraging more women to undertake or pursue careers in STEM disciplines.

It launched a new gender strategy five years ago with the “objective of improving the gender balance among its laureates” and aims to provide a framework for gender initiatives.

It also involved setting goals to increase representation among researchers receiving SFI funding. In 2015, female researchers represented 21% of SFI laureates.

It initially set a target of 25% female winners, but this was revised to 30% in 2017 once the initial target was reached.

Last year the figure stood at 29%, but the organization wants to see further progress, according to tender documents.

Unpublished data from the Higher Education Authority included in the tender to hire a consultant for the SFI exam shows that 35% of STEM academic staff at Irish universities are women.

“There is still a gap to be closed to ensure that SFI’s portfolio represents the gender balance in the pool of potential candidates,” the documents say.

Gender equality is an important societal challenge, as underlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. At European level, women are under-represented in the highest grades of higher education, with 26% of women in the ranks of professor.

“A similar picture is reflected in the Irish higher education system by data on staff profiles of higher education institutions by gender, with 24% female professors in universities. “

SFI aims to complete the review by the end of next May. It will analyze the success of practices adopted in funding research elsewhere and in other sectors to inform its recommendations and improvements.

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