From left: Students Melody McGuirk and Michaela Doran demonstrating a VR headset.
From left: Students Melody McGuirk and Michaela Doran from Rockford Manor, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Image: Jason Clarke Photography

Secondary school girls need more support to pursue STEM careers

23 Oct 2018

Two important new STEM initiatives were launched today to help students carve their own career paths.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, today (23 October) launched two important initiatives for STEM education in Ireland at the Accenture building in Dublin.

Both the I Wish showcase and a landmark STEM careers guide from Dublin City University (DCU), World of Opportunities, were launched today, in partnership with Accenture Ireland and Business In The Community (BITC) Ireland.

More work to be done to highlight STEM careers

To mark the occasion, I Wish released its annual survey of more than 2,200 transition year students, which showed that secondary school girls and their teachers still are not fully aware of the opportunities STEM subjects can open up.

The survey found that 59pc of girls believe they don’t know enough about STEM careers. 93pc of teachers say that self-belief in girls’ own ability is a major roadblock to STEM promotion in schools, and 90pc of teachers want to see workshops for girls to enhance resilience and confidence.

In positive news, the importance of representation cannot be overstated. The survey found that the more STEM-related events a girl attends, the more likely she is to choose STEM subjects at Leaving Cert level and higher.

O’Connor said: “The need to increase gender diversity in STEM has been widely recognised and I Wish’s research once again highlights the challenge we face to help female students build confidence in this area at second level.

“We need to make more young people aware of the vast learning opportunities and potential careers that exist in STEM. DCU’s World of Opportunities careers guide addresses this knowledge gap and will hopefully inspire students across the board to appreciate the exciting options open to them within the STEM field.”

Co-founder of I Wish, Caroline O’Driscoll, said: “We can now demonstrate definitively that the more a girl is exposed to extracurricular STEM events, the more likely she is to take on related Leaving Cert subjects and college courses. Information and confidence are also key, however. We must continuously showcase the opportunities through STEM and build girls’ confidence in their ability to improve people’s lives through STEM. We need to act now to make a difference.”

More than 10,000 transition year girls have already experienced the I Wish showcase and another 6,000 are set to be introduced to the exciting array of pathways STEM has to offer. 2019’s showcases will take place across four days in Dublin and Cork next February.

Making STEM careers accessible

Partnering with the launch event, DCU debuted its essential guide for students, teachers and parents, detailing the different ways a career in STEM can be pursued. DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said: “Our World of Opportunities publication is designed to explain, in accessible language, the exciting new careers available to those with STEM qualifications.”

He added that the first aim of the guide is to help parents and students understand the options available, as the task of selecting a STEM career path “can be somewhat daunting to those not familiar with new and evolving terminology”.

Tying in to the I Wish survey, MacCraith added: “The second purpose of our publication is to highlight, through real examples, female role models in exciting STEM careers. Overall, our aim is to enhance the STEM pipeline in Ireland and to move the dial on the gender imbalance issue.”

Ellen Tannam
By Ellen Tannam

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects. She keeps her library card close at hand at all times and is a big fan of babies, chocolate and Sleater-Kinney.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading