Under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology threatens our global competitiveness-TCD Vice Provost

Posted on: 10 December 2004

The under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology threatens our global competitiveness, stated the Vice Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Prof. Jane Grimson today (Friday 10 December) at a symposium focusing on the different perspective women researchers have brought to their professions. This event marked the end of the centenary celebrations of the admission of women to TCD. The new climate of engineering practice, together with evidence of a threatened labour shortage, requires us to look beyond our traditional pool of talent in order to capture new perspectives, argued the Vice-Provost, who is also a chartered engineer. Not only does the changing nature of engineering today require greater diversity, this new “type of engineering” is perhaps naturally more attractive to women, she said. “Unfortunately it is not simply a matter of recruiting more women into the profession – it is also a matter of retention, the so called ‘leaky-pipeline,’” stressed the Vice-Provost. “This is only too obvious in academia generally, not just in engineering, where women form a significant proportion of the lecturing grade staff but with a rapid fall off in numbers through the academic grades. Coordinated and targeted interventions are needed at all points along the “pipeline” starting with primary school and through to more a family-friendly workplace which respects the need for everyone to have a better work-life balance.” Keynote speaker, Prof. Teresa Rees of Cardiff University, stated that men are selected disproportionate to their numbers in the recruitment pool at every stage in the career ladder in European universities and research institutes. There are few women in senior decision-making structures that decide what constitutes excellence in scientific research. A path-breaking study revealed patronage and nepotism at the heart of the supposedly neutral peer review system. This suggests that the social construction of scientific excellence is indeed gendered. This year Trinity College has been celebrating the centenary of admission of women to the College. To mark the end of the celebrations, the final events to take place included a symposium, poster display and public lecture, whose theme was ‘Researching Women: Trinity past present and future’.