Over 50 students from across Northern Ireland celebrated International Women in Engineering Day on Friday 23rd June, by taking part in the first annual STEM Challenge event, hosted by global healthcare firm Randox Laboratories.
The students, from the Belfast Model School for Girls and Victoria College Belfast, joined female scientists, engineers, software developers and mathematicians from Randox, for a number of interactive activities organised to mark the special day, which is aimed at tackling the gender divide in engineering and other science, technology and maths-related disciplines.
Speaking at the event was Professor Máire O’Neill of Queen’s University Belfast – Professor in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and former recipient of the British Female Inventors and Innovators Network’s British Female Inventor of the Year award.
Professor O’Neill commented;
“I’m really delighted to be here today at the Randox STEM event and to have the opportunity to speak with girls who could potentially be the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, software developers, and significantly, on today, International Women in Engineering Day, the next generation of female engineers.
“Engineering is not a job for men. The representation of engineering as a “masculine” job is a socially constructed one, and at that, an inaccurate one. The skills required for engineering are found just as readily in the young girls I see here before me today as they are in their male classmates – patience, analysis, communication, empathy and problem solving.
“Enabling these young girls here today to meet with female engineers from Randox provides them with really positive role models who can share their experiences and hopefully encourage the students to really consider what it is to be an engineer.”
The students had the opportunity to ask the Randox representatives all the questions they wanted to know about working in STEM, and were treated to a tour of the facilities at the recently acquired Randox Science Park, which has become the new headquarters for the company.
Linda Magee, Head of Human Resources at Randox added;
“We want young girls to know that engineering is as much a viable career choice for them as it is for their male counterparts. At Randox our female to male ratio of engineers is significantly higher than the UK average – 15.8% as opposed to only 9% – but we still have a long way to go and we feel quite strongly that we can utilize Randox’s status within the Northern Irish business sector to really spearhead a paradigm shift in how we view engineering disciplines.”
Mark Gray, Biology Teacher at Victoria College Belfast said;
“We were delighted to hear that Randox were hosting a schools event in support of their STEM campaign, to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day. It’s important to give girls the chance to get involved and gain hands-on experience within these different disciplines and deliver the message from an early age that they have the same opportunities as boys in every part of life, especially their careers.
“By giving them more information and explaining the benefits of STEM we’re opening the doors for girls into areas that they might not have considered before. We need to make certain that young girls have the right support and experience to choose the right job in their future professions and a campaign like this offers us the perfect opportunity to do so.”
The Randox STEM challenge on International Women in Engineering Day, Friday 23rd June, was the culmination of a week-long initiative celebrating women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths, and in leadership roles across Northern Ireland.
Article by Randox Laboratories Ltd