Thursday, 28 April 2016

Round Table Discussion on Gender Balance with Engineers Ireland

Recently we hosted a Round Table Discussion on Gender Balance with Engineers Ireland. We were delighted that Jane Grimson former President of Engineers Ireland and Caroline Spillane Director General Engineers Ireland agreed to attend.

Engineers Ireland and UCD EGA Round Table on Gender Balance

Jane in fact chaired the discussion very fittingly as she was the first female President of Engineers Ireland in 2000 - 2001. She chaired a lively discussion with senior representatives of both Engineers Ireland and UCD EGA.

Chair Jane Grimson listens intently
Present also was UCD Dean of Engineering Professor David FitzPatrick and Michael Loughnane Immediate Past President EGA who chairs our Subcommittee on Gender Balance and author of our Reports on the subject together with his Subcommittee Members Killian McKenna PhD student in Electronic Engineering and Katie O'Neill Marketing Manager UCD College of Engineering and Architecture.

PJ Rudden, UCD EGA, David Fitzpatrick, UCD EGA, Caroline Spillane, Engineers Ireland,
Jane Grimson, Engineers Ireland and Michael Loughnane, UCD EGA
We also had Engineers Ireland Directors of CPD and Membership Dee Keogh and Denis McCarthy respectively and Roseanne O'Leary Acting STEPS Team Manager. STEPS is the division of Engineers Ireland which leads engagement with Primary and Second Schools encouraging careers in Engineering and who organise Engineers Week each February which brings Engineering to life for the Irish public, parents, teachers and schools around the country.


Majella Henchion ESB, Denis McCarthy, Dee Keogh and Roseanne O'Leary all Engineers Ireland

For Engineers Ireland DG Caroline Spillane outlined the huge spread of STEPS many events throughout the year - some 1,200 in total and impacting on some 60,000 people. They are planning  Women in Engineering event this coming Autumn. The DG expressed the view strongly that collaboration between the various engineering organisations was essential to allow the considerable challenge to be shared. She sought 'a richer dialogue on the value of engineering in society' - an inspiring thought that would strongly encourage more events such as this.

Caroline Spillane and PJ Rudden with Caithlín McDonnell UCD

Chair Jane Grimson fully agreed with this and offered some insights on how the issue was being addressed in Trinity College where she served as Vice Provost for a period. 'The efforts we all make have to be scalable to make a difference' she said 'no one organisation can adequately address this multifaceted challenge'.

We were delighted to again have Catherine Lynch the UCD Gender Project Manager at an EGA Gender Balance event. Catherine spoke passionately about the need for equality in the total student experience regardless of gender, diversity and disability. Thus many students are being challenged in terms of attraction to, retention in and progression in their chosen fields. It was one of the more powerful contributions of the day and that theme was resonated by other speakers specifically about gender balance in engineering that we concentrate more on the need for more engineers but use 50:50 gender balance as part of the overall messaging.  An excellent example of this was the Engineers Ireland TV advert for Chartered Engineer (CEng) a number of years ago (2011-2013) using close to 50:50 gender balance.

Roseanne O'Leary, Engineers Ireland, Frances Humphreys, IBM,
Catherine Lynch, UCD and Caitlín McDonnell UCD Engineering Student

Michael Loughnane made reference to the 'leaky pipe' where the approximately half of the female engineering graduates migrate to other professions and career choices after graduation. He called for employers to 'offer more positive and enriching careers to female engineers to stay in the profession'.


PJ Rudden with Nadine Grogan, PM Group

Majella Henchion also from ESB who actively support the STEPS team drew attention that while only 9% of graduates made application for employment to ESB in 2016 yet 27% of those eventually appointed were women. That is further confirmation that while girls do better than boys in most state examinations in most subjects, they are also judged to be more employable in many engineering roles.

'Less than 40% of girls are in all girls schools but we equally must target the larger mixed schools which teach the greater range of subjects' she stated.

Chair Jane Grimson with EGA Gender Balance Subcommittee Members
Michael Loughnane, Killian McKenna and Katie O'Neill
Michael referred to Career Guidance Teachers who invariably do not have a STEM teaching background.  Majella noted the high preference for Biology as a subject and Biology Teachers in girls schools with greatly reduced interest in Physics.  Students/parents then dependent on external classes to learn physics and also chemistry suffers in the same way.  This reduces the steer towards engineering.

Chair Jane Grimson stated that engineers are at the heart of a thriving economy and it challenges us all to change work environments to suit female engineers .

Dee, Laura, Roseanne and Frances also contributed. Killian outlined the EGA efforts on social media.  Killian also chairs the EGA Subcommittee on Social Media. 

David outlined the improving situation of 27% females in UCD First Year Engineering in 2015 and the need for more role models. Katie said that UCD had a radical new approach in their Open Day for Engineering sessions geared towards better gender balance and instanced that the winners of Final Year Gold Medals in recent years have disproportionately been awarded to females. She also mentioned the EGA 2015 Autumn Panel Discussion on the Digital Economy where there was 60% females on the speaker panel and 40% at the 2016 Spring Panel Discussion on Flooding.

David Fitzpatrick and PJ Rudden listen to Katie O'Neill
The youngest member of the Round Table Caitlin McDonnell Final Masters student in Structural Engineering with Architecture described her journey towards engineering from second level to UCD driven by her love of mathematics.

The following Six Point Plan contains initiatives that can be pursued either individually or collectively by Engineers Ireland and UCD EGA

1. Encourage an increasing number of Engineering graduates into the Irish Economy regardless of gender.

 2. Focus more on the largest mixed second level schools to encourage both STEM subjects and gender balance.

 3. Seek greater collaboration on this issue with all other engineering institutions, third level colleges and employers (especially Corporate Members of UCD EGA and Engineers Ireland).

 4. Strive for as close to 50% gender balance of principal participants at public events, in advertising opportunities and on brochures - as with Engineers Ireland CEng TV adverts and recent UCD EGA events.

 5. Encourage female engineering graduates to visit Second Level Schools through STEPS and third level colleges to describe their interesting everyday work and to speak to Career Guidance Teachers.

 6. Better targeting of influencers like Media, Career Guidance Officers, Teaching Organisations and Parents.

L to R: Roseanne O'Leary Engineers Ireland, Frances Humphrey IBM, Caroline Spillane Engineers Ireland,
Nadine Grogan PM, Killian McKenna UCD EGA, Michael Loughnane UCD EGA, Majella Henchion ESB & Engineers Ireland,
Dee Keogh Engineers Ireland, Laura Tobin UCD Student & Denis McCarthy Engineers Ireland

Many thanks to Clare Ryan for her organisation of this event.  Thanks also to Nicola Kavanagh in Engineers Ireland for sending out all of the invitations.

Katie O'Neill, Clare Ryan, Professor David Fitzpatrick & Professor Michael Gilchrist, all UCD




Monday, 11 April 2016

UCD EGA hosts Spring Panel Discussion on Flooding

On April 21st next at 6pm in UCD Clinton Auditorium the Engineering Graduates Association (EGA) will host a Spring Panel Discussion on the issue of Flooding in Ireland.

Even today in mid-April there was flooding this weekend in Cork city and the winter flooding that impacted so severely on the River Shannon catchment is only now subsiding.

River Shannon Flooding

On April 21st next at 6pm in Clinton Auditorium Belfield, we will have a Panel Discussion on 'Tackling the Flooding Challenge in Ireland' with a Panel of national and international experts.

Leading the discussion will be the UCD Professor of Environmental Hydrology Micheal Bruen Director of the Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research who will give an overview on the issue and outline the influence of the changing pattern of our climate. His presentation is entitled 'Living with Rivers and Risks - Flooding and a Sustainable Future'.

Prof. Michael Bruen

He will be followed by Dr Jan Verkade of Deltares and Technical University of Delft on 'Flood Management and Real Time Forecasting in the Netherlands'.

Dr. Jan Verkade

Then we will hear the national Government response from Tony Smyth, Director of Engineering Services in the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the National Flood Risk Assessment on vulnerable urban areas in Ireland where Catchment Flood Risk Management Mapping and Plans (CFRAMS) have been drawn up to protect the towns where flood protection had not yet been provided.

Tony Smyth

Finally we will hear from well-known TV weather personality Evelyn Cusack Deputy Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann on the current advanced modelling of forecasting weather events. Her presentation is titled 'The Highs and Lows of Ireland's Weather'.

Evelyn Cusack

These four presentations will be followed by a Question and Answer session moderated by Dr Amanda Gibney UCD College of Engineering Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning. Amanda is a Lecturer in Civil Engineering who has won a UCD College Teaching Award for her significant contribution to curriculum and programme development.

Dr. Amanda Gibney

'So we are all in for a real expose of the complexities of Flooding which can have serious human and commercial impacts on people, properties, farms and businesses' stated UCD EGA President P J Rudden. 'With this line up of expert speakers we will not have solved the flooding challenge, but we will appreciate more fully the national plans to deal with the flooding problem and the experience in The Netherlands which is very flat and much of the country below sea level' he concluded.

All are welcome, admission is free but attendees must register in advance with A brief Reception will follow the event.