Cork Chamber keen to encourage more schoolgirls to study science subjects

Research finds that 44% of secondary school students believe that Stem subjects are more suited to boys than to girls

At the launch of the I Wish initiative were (from left): Maedbh Heaney, Caroline O’Driscoll, Gillian Keating, Tara McCarthy, Ruth Buckley and Saoirse Terry. Photograph: Darragh Kane

At the launch of the I Wish initiative were (from left): Maedbh Heaney, Caroline O’Driscoll, Gillian Keating, Tara McCarthy, Ruth Buckley and Saoirse Terry. Photograph: Darragh Kane

 

Research from Accenture and Women Invent Tomorrow has found that 44 per cent of secondary school students in Ireland believe that science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects are more suited to boys than to girls.

This depressing statistic is bad news for the Stem sector, which is suffering from a skills gap and sorely needs to attract more talented young people and, in particular, to increase the levels of female participation.

Cork Chamber president Gillian Keating has decided to do something about this – she is one of several businesspeople spearheading the I Wish programme this Thursday. Events will run throughout Cork city and county, with 1,000 female secondary school students expected to attend the main event in City Hall.

The initiative aims to change students’ perception of Stem subjects and careers by bringing together some of the most influential and inspiring female role models in the sector.

The line-up is certainly impressive, with speakers including Sonia Flynn, managing director of Facebook Ireland, Google’s Serena Lawless and Aoife Desmond from Twitter. Also speaking will be doctor and Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies host Pixie McKenna, who will be talking to students about career evolution with a science, medical or paramedical background.

“There is a huge variety of exciting careers in the Stem sector and having heard many times ‘I wish I knew more about the opportunities for women in the world of science and technology or engineering and math,’ from female students, mothers and teachers, we decided to tackle the issue head on,” Keating says.

Caroline O’Driscoll, vice chair of it@cork, which is also backing the initiative, says: “Industry will benefit enormously if more students take up careers in the Stem sector. The figures show that to grow our skills pipeline to meet jobs [openings] in Ireland, we need to increase the number of women entering the job market with skills across science, technology, engineering and math,” O’Driscoll adds.

“The I Wish programme is about collaboration across education, industry and universities and colleges as well as business and support organisations, to grow the number of women in Stem.”

I Wish events will be held in Fota Wildlife Park, Clonakilty, Mallow and CIT, with a central conference and interactive exhibition in City Hall Cork. More information is available on iwish.ie.