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January 10th, 2020

Engineering industry faces further gender imbalance and future skills shortages due to lack of access at school, says Cook Medical

The limited take-up of Leaving Certificate engineering among girls is largely due to a lack of access to the subject, according to global medtech company Cook Medical.

Recent figures from the Department of Education show the interest in STEM subjects in schools has improved, with increasing uptake by both boys and girls. However, among girls, interest lies predominantly within maths and science subjects—particularly biology.

Students from Desmond College, Limerick at the Cook Medical stand of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

In comparison, only 7% of students who sat the Leaving Certificate engineering exam in 2019 were female. This statistic is widely attributed to the exclusion of the subject in all-girls’ schools, with engineering only being available in co-educational or all-male schools.

One of the key goals of the Government’s Action Plan for Education 2018 is to increase female participation in STEM by 40% by 2026. This goal is only achievable if all aspects of STEM are considered, and access to engineering should be a priority.

“STEM is a topic of conversation that continues to be at the fore of the education agenda as Ireland works towards becoming Europe’s STEM leader by 2026. However, despite the progress that has been made in promoting STEM subjects, we need to reconsider their access at a school level—particularly engineering,” commented Darach McGrath, director of Global R&D – Vascular at Cook Medical, at this year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

“School subjects play a significant role in shaping the interest of younger generations, and if the educational structure continues to restrict access to engineering for some girls, then the prospect of pursuing a career in the field is limited at a very early stage.”

“Engineering is a major contributor to the Irish economy, employing over 23,000 people directly. However, the industry is met with a gender imbalance and is facing future skill shortages, which is why it is so important that we work to develop these skills among girls from a young age.”

“We’re proud to say that 33% of our engineers at our Limerick site are women, working in areas such as R&D, design, process, testing and new product introduction. But we must collectively work to promote engineering at an educational level and also assist students to better understand the types of careers that are available afterwards.”

Darach McGrath made these comments, on behalf of Cook Medical, at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition today, where the Limerick-based company has a stand in the World of Technology and Science zone.

About Cook Medical

Since 1963, Cook Medical has worked closely with physicians to develop technologies that eliminate the need for open surgery. Today, we are combining medical devices, biologic materials and cellular therapies to help the world’s healthcare systems deliver better outcomes more efficiently. We have always remained family owned so that we have the freedom to focus on what we care about: patients, our employees and our communities. Find out more at, and for the latest news, follow us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.