Business News

Diversity in STEM to be highlighted at Inspirefest 2015

By Business & Finance
16 June 2015
Ann O'Dea
Ann O’Dea, CEO, Silicon Republic

Over 1,000 delegates from Ireland and further afield will attend a three-day festival at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this week to celebrate diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Inspirefest 2015 will take place this Thursday and Friday, and will be followed by a fringe festival each evening – and on Saturday morning – in Merrion Square.

Speakers at the event will include Shelly Porges, former advisor to Hillary Clinton; famed Northern Irish astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell; Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of Re/Code; video game developer Brianna Wu; and advertising giant and entrepreneur Cindy Gallop. Delegates are travelling from the US, UK, Europe and Africa to attend, where they will join a large local audience.

Ann O’Dea, CEO of Silicon Republic, the organisation behind Inspirefest 2015, has said the festival is intended to provide a platform for high achieving female leaders, and to create a dialogue about barriers preventing women and minority groups into STEM – and how to overcome them.

She commented: “It is an uncomfortable truth that the STEM sector is still not an inclusive environment, and barriers exist that are continuously preventing women and minority groups from entering, and succeeding in, this field. This flies in the face of the high demand for qualified professionals in the burgeoning STEM sectors, which is not being met by the current available workforce. Thankfully, many of our male counterparts are well aware of this challenge, and I’m delighted to say many of them will be with us on stage and among our delegates.

“Globally, STEM suffers from a lack of female participation, which has a real knock-on effect on industry with recent research indicating that here in Ireland, only 25% of those working in science, technology and research are women. Furthermore, just 10% of engineers in Ireland are women, and that figure falls even lower if you are talking about software engineers and computer programmers,” O’Dea continues.

Inspirefest aims to challenge this status quo in the STEM sectors by featuring a speaker line-up and attendance list dominated by high-achieving women. The leaders on stage will be at least 75% female, in this way reversing traditional conference trends and ‘changing the ratio’ of female representation at such gatherings.

In addition to those mentioned above, other keynote speakers at this week’s event include: Ariel Waldman, founder of; Stephen C Neff, CTO, Fidelity Investments; Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; and Bethany Meyer, president and CEO, Ixia – among others.

In addition to the day-time events at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, an extensive fringe festival and outreach programme will bring together technology, design and the arts in Merrion Square Park, featuring talks and panel discussions with GLEN, Women For Election, Women on Air, WITS and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, film screenings including Robin Hauser Reynolds’ film Code: Debugging the Gender Gap and documentary short The Computers, as well as music performances by leading Irish acts, Little Green Cars, Little Xs for Eyes, Loah, Inni-K and Katie Kim.

Photo: Colin White Photography