21 December 2020
By Bryan Smyth
Ensuring girls are not left further behind in STEM in a post Covid world, I Wish discovers a potential link between girls who play sport and those that chose STEM
I Wish 2021 has been launched, the event will take place virtually on 4th March 2021. I Wish is designed to raise awareness of and build excitement amongst teenage girls on the myriad of opportunities that a STEM career can offer women. The 2021 event will see over 10,000 female second-level students, industry leaders and stakeholders tuning in live to an event which promises to be like no other virtual event.
The event will combine a Main Stage with “Ted Talk” style key notes, including some international speakers, plus special “day in the life” videos, interactive showcases from industry partners including Arup, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, and a Social Media Hub where students and industry partners can engage directly with the event. There will also feature interviews with some of the amazing women shaping a better world through STEM.
To launch the 2021 event I Wish organised a special audience with Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, students from The Teresian School, to consider the findings of the I Wish 2020 Survey. Also playing a key role in the event are key partners and stakeholders including Arts and Creativity partner Rethink Ireland and digital partner Deloitte Ireland. Over 2,500 second-level girls participated in this survey, the largest of its kind of secondary school girls and their attitudes towards STEM in Ireland.
A key discovery in this year’s survey is the potential link between girls who play sport and their pursuit of STEM. With a trend showing that a girl who plays more than four hours of sport a week could be as much as 89% more likely to have studied higher level maths to Junior Cert and could be as much as 32% more likely to have studied Junior Cert science. Furthermore, the survey showed that girls who play more than two hours of organised sport per week were more likely to agree that they would pursue a career in a male-dominated area – and I Wish would like to see this link being explored further.
Minister Foley stated “It’s important for us in government and for industry to hear directly from girls on what influences them on their subject and career choices. Being a teacher in an all-girls school for many years, I understand how formative this time is for young girls and we all have a responsibility – parents, teachers, industry, and government to foster a sense of inclusion and opportunity for all. The impact of the I Wish events, nurturing young girls and opening their eyes to an education and career in STEM is to be commended and I look forward to learning more about the very exciting virtual event I Wish are planning for in March and to learning more from the girls through the survey results.”
Caroline O’Driscoll, partner with Deloitte Ireland LLP and one of the founders of I Wish stated “The post-Covid environment has accelerated the pace of technology and scientific discovery and we have all experienced the rate at which science and technology can change all our lives for the better. We have also seen however how whole sections of our communities have been more exposed to the worst of what the pandemic threw at us. We must learn from the inequities the pandemic has exposed and work harder than ever to ensure that the next generation of girls are fully enabled to engage with STEM. If we do nothing there is a significant risk that girls will be left behind in the economy of the future.
We are excited to discover the potential link between sport and STEM choices and how this connection could unlock one of the impediments to girls choosing STEM subjects and career pathways.
2021 will mark the first I Wish online experience, ensuring that we are continuing to positively engage with the girls and their teachers so that girls are excited about the future and see STEM as a way to secure their place in that future.”
The I Wish 2020 Survey key findings include:
● 83% of girls agreed that role models were very important in STEM
● 86% of girls agreed that STEM is a growing area of opportunity
● 85% of girls agreed that they would like to know more about STEM
● 85% of girls said that I Wish is an important source of information in STEM
● 68% of girls disagreed that STEM is more suited to boys than girls
● 66% of girls agreed that Arts and Creativity are an important part of STEM
● 65% of teachers said they do not know where to go for information on industry/school initiatives
● 85% of teachers said that confidence in ability when choosing Leaving Cert subjects was important
One of the students meeting Minister Foley at the I Wish launch was Holly McHugh of The Teresian School who said “I am so proud to participate representing my school and my classmates and being given the opportunity to chat to the Minister about what needs to be done to encourage young girls like me to pursue a career in STEM. We really have to “see it to be it” and I’m so looking forward to learning more about the opportunities for us from women who have gone before us. It is exciting that the event is virtual this year. I hope we get the opportunity to connect with girls from all over the world and dismiss the notion together that “STEM is just for boys”.
Since I Wish was launched in 2015 over 22,000 girls have attended I Wish showcase events. In 2020 alone, the events held over four days in Cork and Dublin secured in excess of 6,000 student registrations from 22 counties with 25% DEIS representation and with 242 teachers in attendance, 64 exhibitors and 140 speakers.
Registration for I Wish 2021 has now launched. To register your school or to learn more about this virtual STEM showcase, please visit www.iwish.ie