The I Wish Report 2023, an annual examination of female Transition Year students’ perspectives on STEM careers, has revealed that 67% of teenage girls lack essential information about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Furthermore, 64% of respondents cited their lack of information on STEM college courses as a considerable barrier to pursuing careers in these fields.
I Wish, the organisation inspiring teenage girls globally towards STEM, asked 2,335 teenage girls about perceived barriers to a career in STEM. The results highlight the power of knowledge, with 41% of students emphasising the need for more career guidance and work-related activities during their school years. Surprisingly, 21% of girls reported never having a career guidance class, despite 97% having access to a guidance counsellor. These findings result in a failure to bring STEM to life for girls and the opportunities to design a better and more inclusive future through STEM.
The ground-breaking research comes as I Wish gears up for its 10th annual STEM Showcase event, taking place on 8 February 2024 at the RDS Dublin. Registration is open at iwish.ie/register, with an estimated 3,000 female students expected to attend. Over 2,000 will receive free rail transport from across the country as part of a national partnership with Iarnród Éireann. Bus Éireann will also be providing free return busses between Heuston Station and the RDS. There will be I Wish watch parties for an international audience post-event.
Gillian Keating, co-founder of I Wish, said on the findings: “These statistics raise questions about the guidance counselling provided in some schools. It’s deeply concerning that 64% of girls lack information about STEM college careers and job opportunities. We must diversify how we present STEM careers and pathways, equipping young women with the knowledge they need.”
In a STEM landscape where only one in four professionals is a woman, the survey respondents revealed well-paid work, the chance to make a meaningful impact, and making discoveries as key values in STEM-related careers. In contrast, their own work-related values prioritised a good work-life balance, a high salary, and the opportunity to travel.
Caroline O’Driscoll, co-founder of I Wish, stated that they have engaged with over 60,000 girls in the past decade and have witnessed substantial positive change. “There has been a notable increase in female enrolment in STEM college courses, with the proportion rising from 29% in 2014 to 36% last year. Nevertheless, while significant progress is evident, there is still room for improvement. We must better appreciate the work-related values held by these girls. A career in STEM arguably embodies these values, but perhaps we are not conveying the story effectively. This is where the I Wish survey plays a crucial role, allowing us to use the data to enhance the way we tell the story and change the story for girls,” she said.
Speaking on the survey launch, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The I Wish 2023 report highlights a stark reality – that a significant percentage of our young girls lack crucial information about STEM opportunities. STEM fields are pathways to innovation, progress, and limitless potential. We are committed to ensuring that every young woman in our country has the knowledge and support needed to excel in STEM.
“I commend I Wish’s decade-long effort in empowering young women to pursue STEM careers, and for this annual report which offers invaluable insights.”
I Wish’s aims to provide female STEM role models, address post-graduate gender disparities in STEM careers, improve access to STEM subjects, and enhance focus on STEM-related careers throughout students’ education.