North-South Partnership Project to Identify Barriers to Engineering and Manufacturing

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CONFIRM, the Science Foundation Ireland Funded Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing, based at the University of Limerick and South Eastern Regional College (SERC), Co. Down have launched a dedicated digital engagement tool, We Can Engineer It, to gather insights into the factors contributing to low levels of female employees in the Engineering and Manufacturing sectors.


The team secured a €5000 grant supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland All-Island Fund for the project, which aims to find out from young females what they perceive as barriers to entering careers in engineering. The results will be used to inform longer-term course-planning and policy across the Island of Ireland.

The We Can Engineer It website includes testimonials from women working in engineering, a discussion and an ideas board and, importantly, surveys seeking the views of younger women (aged 18-25) on their career choices and their thoughts on engineering as a profession. The team will use social media and will partner with relevant professional bodies and educational institutions to engage with young women and to let them know their voices will be heard.

The survey is open until International Women’s Day, 8 March, and results will be gathered into a report to be published later in the year.

Aine McGreeghan, Curriculum Manager for Engineering at SERC said, “Engineering is a male-dominated profession, and it is widely agreed that there are numerous barriers to women pursuing a career in the field.  Through the We Can Engineer It platform, we hope to gather insights into what might attract young women into a career in Engineering, and also how engineering is included in, or excluded from, career outlooks and planning, some of which has previously been difficult to capture.”

She added, “Women account for 20.1% of the workforce in manufacturing for example*. However, it’s been shown that companies are likely to perform better if they are gender diverse, and that diversity is crucial for driving innovation, so it makes sense to address the inequality and inform future policy, which can support economic growth.”

Sean O’Brien, Education, Public Engagement (EPE) & Training Manager, CONFIRM Centre said, “Encouraging diversity in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, particularly with respect to gender, is a key element of our Education and Public Engagement activity at CONFIRM. While we currently run several activities that specifically aim to engage female students at primary, secondary and third level, these have been designed based on the barriers identified by research in other countries, mainly the USA. We Can Engineer It will identify the specific barriers experienced by women and girls in Ireland, allowing us to address these barriers more effectively and make a more impactful contribution to encouraging diversity in these sectors.”

Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of The Community Foundation for Ireland said, “The thirty partnerships formed under the All-Island Fund have equality at their core. ‘We Can Engineer It’ shares this mission with a drive to break-down barriers to career paths, which previously have not been open to women and girls. This is an exciting partnership which has the potential to open up opportunities, not just for individuals but also for the Engineering sector itself. At The Community Foundation for Ireland, we wish all those involved every success.”

The We Can Engineer It project is one of 30 civil society partnerships being supported by the new All Island Fund – a unique partnership between the Community Foundation for Ireland and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, which combines over 60 years of grant-making experience. This new pilot Fund is providing flexible philanthropic support for civil society engagement on a North-South basis, leading to better understanding, strong relationships and progression towards a fairer, more equitable society on the Island of Ireland.

If you are a woman aged 18 or over, please visit our digital platform to share your thoughts and experiences.

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