Senior leaders from 18 top technology companies in Ireland, who have been collaborating on a common goal of attracting, retaining and promoting females in the technology sector, met in IBM Ireland’s HQ in Dublin today at the annual Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) CEO forum. The tech leaders were joined by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD, who discussed the importance of promoting STEM and technology careers at school level and promoting female role models in industry – actions which will encourage young women into areas where females are currently underrepresented.

Over the past 12 months, in addition to their own diversity and inclusion programmes, CWIT member companies have undertaken a range of activities to improve gender diversity in their industry. These include ‘IT is not just for geeks’, a programme that educates students and encourages girls in particular on the vast array of opportunities in the technology sector. More than 4,000 students were reached by the programme, and there are plans to expand this initiative in 2018 by recruiting more volunteers from within the CWIT companies to assist in its rollout to schools across Ireland.

In addition, the STEM Teacher Internship programme, supported by CWIT and 30% Club Ireland, has facilitated 11 student teachers from the BSc. Science Education in Dublin City University to complete twelve-week paid internships in Accenture, AIB and Intel. It is estimated that these student teachers will have the ability to reach over 440,000 students once qualified. The purpose of this internship programme is to give a teacher, who may influence thousands of young people during their careers, first-hand experience of working in the technology sector. In 2018, the number of internships will increase as more member companies including IBM, Virgin Media and Vodafone facilitate these key placements.

A key focus area for CWIT has been contributing to the refresh of the ICT Skills Action Plan 2014-2018 which is currently underway. Working closely with Ibec and the Department of Education and Skills, CWIT is promoting the inclusion of specific actions on gender diversity within the plan as well as gaining the necessary commitment from its participant companies to deliver on relevant actions. CWIT welcome the phased introduction of Leaving Certificate Computer Science in 2018, an issue which has been high on the CWIT agenda, as well as the introduction of coding as a short course at Junior Cycle.

Speaking at the meeting, Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education and Skills said, “I am always urging all of our young people, but especially young women to consider a career in STEM and I’m delighted to see senior leaders across the technology sector coming together today at the Connecting Women in Technology CEO forum to encourage the same.

The vibrant technology sector we have here in Ireland is an important part of Ireland’s economic success. In my role as Minister for Education and Skills, I am always keen to listen to the needs of all industry to ensure that our education system is responding to the skill needs of the economy.

As part of my overall ambition to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe by 2026, I have put a strong emphasis on the teaching and learning of STEM subjects. This is an area I am personally very passionate about and I am ensuring its delivery through the forthcoming STEM strategy and also the refresh of the ICT Action Plan.

With input from industry, including CWIT, the ICT Action Plan will include specific initiatives to encourage women and underrepresented groups to take up science and technology subjects and seriously consider the technology sector when making their career choice. I am very encouraged today to see the emphasis being placed on cooperation between education and the technology sector in promoting inclusion, awareness raising and diversity.”

CWIT spokesperson, Etain Seymour, said, “Today was a great opportunity for Ireland’s leading technology players to outline our approach, developments and vision for 2018 and beyond.

We are delighted that Minister Bruton could join us this morning, as it further demonstrates the Department’s commitment to enhancing opportunities for women in technology. We are confident that initiatives such as our STEM Internship programme and input into the National ICT Skills Plan will improve gender diversity in an industry as crucial as technology.”

The engagement illustrates & validates the commitment that there is amongst our industry leaders to attract, retain and promote more females in the technology sector within Ireland’s Smart Economy.”

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