- 78% say lack of STEM subject choice is a gender-specific barrier to a career in STEM
- 55% interested in Engineering did not have access to the subject
- 77% are not confident in their ability to do STEM
An I Wish study has found it is time to rethink how STEM subjects are presented in schools with over three quarters (78%) of teenage girls saying lack of choices is a barrier to a career in STEM. Further obstacles outlined by young girls in the largest annual survey of its kind in Ireland included lack of confidence in their ability (77%) and a perception that there is not enough gender equality in STEM (83%).
Nine in 10 (87%) of the 2,449 respondents in I Wish’s 2021 Survey of Female Students’ Attitudes to STEM agreed science, technology, engineering and mathematics are growing areas of opportunity. However, more than half interested in studying Engineering (55%) and Construction Studies (52%) did not have access to these subjects. With the exception of Biology and Chemistry, female students are under-represented across the board in terms of STEM subjects. When asked what factors are important to them in choosing STEM subjects, just under half picked ones where they would ‘fit in’.
Striving to de-gender STEM subjects and build female students’ confidence, the I Wish report was launched to announce I Wish 2022. The acclaimed free global STEM event for female secondary school students is to be held in February next year. Registrations are now open at iwish.ie/register.
Gillian Keating, co-founder of I Wish outlined: “The world is rapidly changing. Fifteen out of the 20 fastest growing careers in the world require a background in maths or science. However, only 25% of STEM jobs in Ireland are held by females. 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. 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 — policy makers, private sector, communities, men and women.”
Survey respondents outlined positive steps to address barriers including training awareness about STEM from a young age, enhancing confidence through mentorships, and providing access to STEM subjects. Recognising this, I Wish’s annual global STEM event is to be held virtually on 10 February 2022 and will feature some of the country’s top female STEM leaders. The largest conference of its kind, it is open to young female students worldwide. In 2021, over 15,000 viewers across 19 countries attended the showcase.