When choosing a career path, many young females tend to gravitate towards roles that gives them the real opportunity to help others and have a meaningful purpose, according to recent research. It is for this reason, the research suggests, why so many choose medicine or health and life sciences.
But employers and industries want female students to think beyond these obvious career choices. They want them to explore the endless opportunities offered in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Why? Because they need people who care passionately about solving real issues and problems that affect everyone.
Food shortage. Climate change. Urbanisation. Over population and aging. These are just a flavour of some of the real challenges that we all face. The solution? It’s all in STEM.
Success in STEM
The worldwide skills shortage in STEM area makes for sober reading but many people believe that if we can fix the gender gap, we can alleviate the skills shortage. On home soil, figures from the Central Statistics Office show that less than 25 per cent of the approximate 120,000 people working in STEM related jobs are female. As such, the focus now is on encouraging more females to consider and explore the world of STEM subjects.
The I Wish conference – taking place in Cork and Dublin in February 2017 – is one such initiative. Supported by ESB, the aim of this event is to inspire, encourage and motivate young secondary school female students to pursue careers in STEM.
So why are females not as enamoured by the prospect of a career in STEM? Ability is clearly not the issue. Leaving Cert statistics show that while the number of females taking STEM subjects in secondary schools is lower, those who did performed as well if not better than their male peers.
Some cite a lack of role models in some subjects and the perceived masculinity of the industry. But that is changing. Just look at what Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook has done to encourage females to enter the world of IT. Indeed, Ireland’s own Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin is proving an influential figure in all things science and maths.
Taking the Lead
Corporate companies are also taking the lead, and not just within their own organisation. Through its partnership with the Dublin Science Gallery and staff volunteers, ESB hosts a number of electronic MAKESHOP workshops for young people. They are also working with TechSpace to develop a national programme to promote STEM through a network of youth organisations, projects and schools.
It is hoped that all of these initiatives, role models and early education and awareness will encourage and influence female participation in STEM.
With more than 4,000 females expected to attend the I Wish events in Cork and Dublin this month, the appetite and interest is clearly gathering momentum. From influencing subject choices in transition year to informing parents and teachers, it is hoped that young students will open their eyes and change their perception of the STEM world at this event.
But the hard work has only just begun and we all have a role to play in encouraging everyone to partake.