Funding Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology in Ireland

Funding Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology in Ireland

Ita Richardson (University of Limerick, Ireland)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch055
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Abstract

In the mid-1990s, I was one of a number of women who recognised the importance of having an on-campus child-care facility for staff and students at the University of Limerick.1 Up until our child-care facility, Silver Apples, opened in November 1999, we had no on-campus child care available to us. The facility opening was due mainly to the efforts of a small group of women who used many opportunities to talk to management about the issue we had. As a direct result of this lobbying, the University of Limerick applied for and received funding; this would partly fund the building of the facility. More recently, the facility’s management, in conjunction with our local primary school (first level), opened a purpose-built after-school club, the first of its kind in Ireland. This anecdote is an indicator of how Irish society saw the need for child care 10 years ago: It was not high on the political, educational, or business agenda. During local elections at this time, I spoke with politicians about the issue of child care. Many of them had not come across this as an issue previously, or else they chose to ignore it. Things have changed! One of the current hot political topics in Ireland is the provision of child care to all sectors of employees. It is discussed in the media and in political circles. Questions are being asked as to how this will be funded: whether working parents can claim tax allowances or the government will make direct payments to the facilities providing child care. This change in attitude has come about not solely because of lobbying, but also because the demand for child-care provision in Ireland has grown significantly. In recent years, the workforce demographic has changed. Women are staying in or returning to the workforce, and this is being encouraged at the highest levels within our government. The changing child-care situation is an indicator of this. In Ireland, the economy performed very well throughout the 1990s. This improving economy has given an opportunity to women to return to the workforce. In 1990, less than 36% of women aged 15 and over were employed; in 2004, this statistic increased to 45% (Central Statistics Office, http://www.cso.ie). Women return to the workplace after becoming mothers and so take maternity leaves and/or parental leaves, which may be as short as 4 months and as long as 2 years. Furthermore, women who broke their career paths to become full-time parents, which may have extended to 20 years, are also returning to work.

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