McKesson, a global leader in healthcare, have announced an innovative PhD scholarship in Computer Science in partnership with the SFI Centre for Research Training in Advanced Networks and Sustainable Societies (ADVANCE) and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). The primary objective of the Centre for Research Training (ADVANCE), and the scholarship, is to train the next generation of doctoral graduates in the field of communications technology developed for human and societal benefit. Professor John Barrett, Head of Nimbus Research Centre which will host the PhD scholar, indicated his delight in partnering with McKesson saying that “the female PhD student will have the opportunity to work on a project that combines real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, and healthcare data at scale with the aim of making a real contribution in the area of personalised, and connected, healthcare that will benefit all members of society.”
The scholarship, which will begin in October 2019, will include work placement with McKesson and mentorship opportunities. McKesson is a Fortune 7 company and currently employs almost 200 people at its Cork office. “The McKesson PhD Scholarship is the first of its kind in the country offered through an SFI Centre for Research Training. This initiative will complement the growth of our next-gen technology functions globally in a diverse manner and keep us at the forefront of innovation in creating the future of patient centric healthcare”, according to Denis Canty, Vice President of Technology at McKesson. Rory Lankford, General Manager at McKesson Cork & Vice President Finance McKesson Technology expressed his support for this initiative saying that “there is a huge shortage of female graduates in this field, and this scholarship is an effort to address that imbalance to prepare women for senior technical leadership roles.”
With industry demand for female computer scientists at an all-time high worldwide, there has never been a better time for female students to pursue a career in the field of computer science and ICT. According to the IDA, Ireland has a very strong reputation as a software centre of excellence with over 900 software companies, including both multinational and indigenous firms, employing 24,000 people and generating €16 billion of exports annually. Given the strength of this sector it’s no wonder that the 2018 Expert Group for Future Skills Needs predicts a shortfall in ICT skills of up to 146,000 people by 2022.
Paradoxically, the percentage of women in the field has been declining since the 1980s, to a now all-time record low of 25%. This decline has occurred despite the fact that during the same period from 1991-2015, women’s participation in other science disciples such as biological & biomedical sciences, mathematics and physical sciences, has increased. Jacquie Casey, Senior Manager in Talent Acquisition, McKesson indicates her concerns at the current situation, “women in computer science are twice as likely as men to drop out of the field, citing a lack of female mentors and career stagnation as major factors. By supporting this PhD initiative coupled with our undergraduate female scholarship, we can remedy these challenges by providing an end to end pathway for female students on their journey towards senior technical leadership roles.”
The scholar will be supervised by academic mentors, Dr Donna O’Shea, Head of Department of Computer Science at CIT, Dr Ruairi O’Reilly, Lecturer Computer Science at CIT, Dr Susan Rea, Group Lead in the Nimbus Research Centre, and industry mentor Mr Graham Baitson, Lead of Innovation Labs at McKesson. Dr O’Shea welcomed the announcement: “the scholar will have a critical role in shaping solutions and software that will underpin the technology and that will influence our society for decades to come.” Mr Baitson, says he believes the programme is important because “diversity fuels innovation, and true innovation comes when we embrace the combination of peoples’ experiences, perspectives and mindsets. The greater our diversity, the greater our products and services.”