Three young women standing in a row dressed in lab gear and smiling and holding lab equipment outside at the launch of I Wish's report.
UCC psychology student Czara Casey (centre), with Mount Temple Secondary School transition-year students Aaliyah Matejko (left) and Kim Woolfson (right). Image: Naoise Culhane

Irish girls say a lack of subject choices is a barrier to a STEM career

8 Oct 2021

In a survey by I Wish, 78pc of girls said they felt a lack of choices was a barrier to a future career in STEM.

More than 80pc of teenage girls in Ireland think there is not enough gender equality in STEM. That’s according to a new report by education outreach organisation I Wish, which focuses on encouraging young women and girls into STEM careers.

The report, published today (8 October), was based on a survey of 2,449 teenage girls. It found that the Irish education system still has some progress to make when it comes getting girls into the STEM industry.

Nine in 10 respondents agreed there were growing career opportunities in the industry. But 78pc said they felt a lack of STEM subject choices was a barrier to a career in this area. A similar percentage (77pc) said they lacked confidence in their ability.

Of the girls who said they were interested in studying engineering, 55pc said they did not have access to studying the subject, while 52pc said they didn’t have access to construction studies.

When I Wish asked participants what factors were important to them in choosing STEM subjects, just under half said they picked ones where they felt they would ‘fit in’. With the exception of biology and chemistry, female students are under-represented across the board in terms of STEM subjects.

“As a former teacher myself, ensuring students can fulfil their potential is close to my heart,” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD. “The pandemic has accelerated our use of STEM, and education in these fields is critical to future growth. Empowering girls to enter STEM, and stay the course, is imperative.”

According to I Wish co-founder Gillian Keating, 15 out of the 20 fastest growing careers in the world require a background in maths or science. However, only a quarter of STEM jobs in Ireland are held by women.

“If girls today perceive obstacles rather than seeing STEM pathways, we risk excluding them from the economy of the future and the pool of scientists, analysts and engineers that we so desperately need to secure a better future for us all,” she said.

“It is encouraging that many girls see STEM as a growing area of opportunity, and we need to build on this to create a level playing field. At I Wish, we’re committed to ensuring that no girl gets left behind and this requires the concerted effort of all to get involved and be accountable — policymakers, private sector, communities, men and women.”

I Wish released its report head of its February 2022 STEM web conference, which will be open to female students worldwide. The event is held annually as part of I Wish’s efforts to provide girls with visible role models working in the industry.

Caroline O’Driscoll, another co-founder of I Wish, said that the organisation could see first-hand that “the sense of gender stereotyping in STEM is exacerbated by lack of access to female role models”.

“That said, we can see the enhanced confidence in girls through role modelling and mentoring,” she added. As well as its flagship annual event, I Wish also runs a mentorship programme with Deloitte Ireland.

Registration details for February 2022’s conference are available on the I Wish website.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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