Panel of Guaranteed Irish tech-sector experts say that in order to close the gender pay gap, Ireland must first address the gender STEM gap and improve education standards among younger people.
The annual Guaranteed Irish ‘Tech Think Tank’ event took place in the Blanchardstown office of indigenous Irish tech company and Guaranteed Irish Member, VIATEL, on Thursday April 27th. Hosted by Damien McCann, COO VIATEL, the panel discussion featured industry thought leaders Paul Rellis, CEO VIATEL, Martina Naughton, Global Partner Sales Director Microsoft Ireland, and Ronan Whelan, CCO SIRO.
Throughout the discussion, the panel highlighted various important tech-sector topics, from jobs and AI to infrastructure and education. Paul Rellis, CEO VIATEL, highlighted the importance of job creation, particularly for indigenous Irish tech companies at such a difficult time in the tech-sector, saying “when you give someone a job, you give them an opportunity”. Paul went on to highlight how Ireland had become a leader in employment over the past 50 years, saying “there was 2.5million people in the country, total population, [whereas] today there is 2.5million people employed in the country”.
Martina Naughton, Global Partner Sales Director Microsoft Ireland, when asked about the issue of the gender pay gap, highlighted that the issues begin in school, that the education system needs to be improved from the ground up, and that the “gender STEM gap” needs to be addressed. “Up until Junior Cert, girls and boys do the same profile of subjects [but] come Leaving Cert, the girls who are participating in biology and chemistry subjects far outpasses their male counterparts. And an important statistic is that their participation in physics goes down. If you think about that trend and then you map it to the landscape in Ireland, the jobs market, engineering and ICT jobs, their salaries are higher, yet only 1/3 of those jobs are occupied by women. I believe fundamentally that to try and address the gender pay gap, you need to go back earlier and you need to look at schools”.
Martina went on to highlight the importance of digital skills, particularly for the future of jobs and employment in Ireland stating that “90% [of jobs] require digital skills”. She once again highlighted the importance of education in this sector, however, by pointing out that in Ireland “47% of employees have no digital skills”. She brought to light the importance of initiatives such as Microsoft Ireland’s Step Into Tech program which aims to equip 10,000 people with the digital skills required to transfer to emerging and in-demand roles within the digital economy.
Speaking on infrastructure in Ireland, Ronan Whelan, CCO SIRO, commented on the rollout of fiber broadband to Ireland which, after being an important topic of discussion in recent years, has become less of an issue because of the excellent work done on infrastructure rollout throughout the country. Ronan shared industry stats which state that “1.5 million homes are fiber ready”, highlighting the importance of fiber wires in new build developments in particular. Ronan goes on to state that “500,000 people [already] have fiber broadband…[and that] within 3-4 years you will see fiber across the whole of Ireland”.
Closing the event, Paul Rellis reinforced the need for Irish business to continue to invest in diversity, equality, and closing gender pay gaps, saying “the best team you can possibly have is the team that’s the most diverse”. An opinion which was seconded by Ronan Whelan who added that business leaders in Ireland should always “challenge [their] own ignorance” on topics such as diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias.