What does it mean to be a woman in STEM in Ireland? With gender diversity finally getting due attention in 2019, is a tangible shift being felt by the talented women working in male-dominated STEM fields?
We spoke to three Irish women: Principal Sensory Scientist, Céline Marque, Regulatory Operations Manager, Lisa Byrne and Claims Scientist, Michelle Mangan all who work at Oriflame on the challenges they face in their industry, misconceptions that go hand-in-hand with their line of duty and the proudest hurdle they've managed to overcome so far.
A Change of Mindset Is Important
"I don’t believe the reason that fewer girls are choosing careers in STEM fields is only due to inequality anymore, there are plenty of opportunities to study and work in these fields, particularly in Ireland," says Lisa on why she feels fewer women enter STEM.
"It is not always apparent when studying in STEM where it can lead you to in your career; many of the STEM career roles appear to be around analytics and research-based roles, which may not appeal to a young girl."
There needs to be stronger links to the multiple career routes out there for those studying STEM: school talks from professionals to promote opportunities. Changing how we talk about STEM in schools will go a long way to embedding these roles in the mindset of young girls.
Things Are Changing
"In my field, sensory science, I would estimate that 85% are women, so it's not always that it's a struggle for women to break in," adds Céline. "In my case, it might be harder for a man! I would say to get a position with management responsibilities is still more of a male role. But this is changing, which is encouraging."
"Being hardworking and consistent are qualities that a lot of women in STEM are using and these qualities enable them to reach high recognition. In sensory science, female scientists created the way forward, for example."
Still, Stereotypes Need To Be Broken
"I think there can be a stereotype associated with women studying STEM subjects, particularly at secondary school level," Michelle interjects, talking of stereotypes associated in the field.
"STEM subjects are often considered ‘geeky’ or ‘nerdy,’ and have been traditionally dominated by males in the past. It would be great to see more female STEM role-models to inspire young women and help them take the next step towards a career in this field."
"In the age of social media, we have more opportunities than ever to showcase the amazing careers of women in STEM – from developing breakthrough technologies to travelling all over the world," she continues. "It’s a very rewarding, exciting and fulfilling career path for women – and even a little more glamorous than you might think!"
It is very inspiring to work on a team with so many women. I think the attributes of talent, skill, ambition and passion are what’s really important to STEM recruitment and women certainly have these attributes in abundance!
The proud moments are many in such an exciting industry, all three agree – no least working alongside so many incredible teams of women.
"I have had a lot of achievements, so to choose one is not easy!" Céline continues, highlighting an event in 2017, where she was invited as a cosmetic sensory scientist to present research during Sensory Irish Food Conference in 2017. "I remember a lot of women attended this one!"
"As I work in cosmetic research and development, my proudest moment is seeing the products we create in the hands of the consumer. From a bright red lipstick to a super volumising mascara, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing real people enjoy our products," Michelle says of hers.
Finally, Lisa says, at Oriflame, it's seeing the real-life impact their work has which remains a personal highlight.
In this company we get to see the impact that our products and business have on our consultants on an ongoing basis," she explains. "We are changing people’s lives with the products that are developed and registered successfully in their markets – there is nothing better!"
Exciting Times For Irish Women In Stem
All agree that 2019 is one of the most exciting times to be a woman in the industry.
"It is incredibly exciting to be a woman in STEM today. There are so many different avenues you can pursue in your career, from make-up and skincare to computers and programming," continues Michelle.
Ireland is at the forefront of technology and innovation and there is something for everyone once you’re willing to work hard and learn.
"I’d encourage every woman to consider a career in STEM and become the next leading female to excel in this industry."
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