£30,000 plan to encourage women into the sciences


Universities are being asked to offer "role model days" as a way to encourage more women to enter the sciences. The Department of Education and Science's Equality Committee has provided £30,000 which will be used to develop the idea and get third-level institutions to participate.

The funding was awarded late last week to WITS, Women in Technology and Science which represents women in the sciences. WITS has been providing role-model days for secondary schools for more than six years, its chairwoman, Dr Jacqueline Allan, said.

It involves getting a working scientist to describe what she does, what it is like to be a woman scientist, engineer or technologist and how she came to take up her career, Dr Allan said. The job is described "warts and all, what the reality is" and the students can question the scientist to get further information. "There is a knowledge gap in knowing what working in science and technology actually means," Dr Allan said.

The project splits into two parts, the preparation of a pack that can be used to begin offering role-model days, and the development of linkages with the colleges. "If more colleges were doing it, the college would actually take on the liaising with the schools and would provide the venue." It could then become a regular outreach activity that could benefit women's involvement in the sciences.