Last night I was delighted to see Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan, of Maynooth University, on RTE one. She shared details with us of her research project ‘STEM Passport for Inclusion’. It really spoke to me as a girl (well, I am a bit older than that now!) from a working-class background. Her project aims to open opportunities for young women from socially-economically disadvantaged (SED) backgrounds in STEM. It was obvious how personally Dr. O’Sullivan cares for this project as she herself identifies with these young women, having come from a similar background – she availed of TCD’s Access Programme to enter the world of third level education.

Last night’s programme showed students from Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore enjoying meeting mentors, pitching ideas and learning new skills. The STEM Passport for Inclusion project aims to inspire young women who – prior to the project – may never have entertained ideas of entering the STEM workspace. The project provides them with very practical – and fun – experiences. These experiences involve learning to code, visiting ‘Dogpatch Labs’ to experience pitching a project, being paired with industry mentors – to name but a few really valuable elements of their experience.

STEM Passport for Inclusion and Gender Balance poster screenshot

Ultimately the project will result in many thousands of young women entering the heretofore largely male populated STEM workforce. Surely this is to be applauded as gender balance has proven notoriously difficult to achieve in many areas of life. A step in the right direction along multiple paths will be taken through this endeavour and we can look forward to reaping the rewards of having these talented young ladies reach their full potential.

If only I could be a young girl again, I’d be jumping at the chance!

To find out more about the project visit the STEM Passport for Inclusion homepage on the Maynooth University website.

The project is funded by SFI Ireland Discover Programme, along with education and industry partners including Microsoft, Prodigy Learning and the RDI Hub Kerry. Accenture Ireland is also involved as it is providing staff to help in mentoring the students.

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