Three women and two teenage girls standing outside a building holding I Wish signs.
Gillian Keating, co-founder I Wish; Ella McCormack from Mount Temple Comprehensive School, Malahide; Sharon Lombard, I Wish; Blessing Oliveria from Mount Temple Comprehensive School; and I Wish co-founder Caroline O’Driscoll. Image: Fennell Photography

Teen girls in Ireland are considering STEM careers, but obstacles remain

11 Oct 2022

More than half of girls feel there is a lack of women role models in STEM and 61pc said they lacked access to STEM work experience.

Teen girls in Ireland are increasingly looking towards STEM careers, with 93pc of girls surveyed rejecting the stereotype that such careers are more suited to boys.

The survey was part of the annual report from STEM education outreach organisation I Wish. This year, 2,583 transition year students took part as they make subject choices and consider their future careers.

I Wish found that there has been a significant change in teenage girls’ perspectives over the years when it comes to the possibility of having a career in STEM. While 93pc of girls rejected the stereotype of boys being more suited to science, maths, engineering and tech jobs in 2022, just 78pc rejected it in a 2016 survey.

A majority (84pc) of girls want to know more about STEM, compared with 53pc in 2016, while 76pc plan to study Leaving Cert maths at higher level compared to 66pc in 2016.

Nationally, some of the more positive trends are reflected in increased engagement by female students in STEM subjects at Leaving Cert higher level, with girls representing 51pc of those taking higher level maths, 29pc taking applied maths, 23pc taking computer science and 9pc taking engineering. Girls’ participation in engineering has almost doubled since 2016.

However, not all of the findings were positive. Almost half (46pc) cited existing stereotypes in STEM as a reason for the fact that only one in four people working in STEM are women. More than half (52pc) of girls also felt as though there was a lack of women role models in STEM.

Teenage girls are fully aware of the gender gap in STEM, with 64pc highlighting it as a potential barrier to them and their future careers. Two-thirds said they didn’t have enough information about careers in the sector, and 61pc said they lacked access to STEM work experience.

More concerning statistics were also highlighted by the report – 57pc of teenage girls lack confidence in their ability to pursue a career in STEM while 40pc are insecure around their ability in STEM subjects.

A similar report published last October by I Wish found that 77pc of teen girls lacked confidence in their ability, meaning this has improved over the past 12 months. I Wish has been publishing these reports since 2016.

Co-founders Gillian Keating and Caroline O’Driscoll said they were pleased with the progress made since the first report was published, but there is a need for continued effort.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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