Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When I grow up, I want to become an engineer just like my Mom!

Why don't more girls become engineers?

I think the number one reason is because most girls have not met a woman engineer. Because of that mostly the career of engineer does not even occur to them. Instead girls are drawn to fields that they have experienced either in life or on television such as medicine or law or teaching. I am involved in several organizations that bring women engineers and middle school girls together to experience engineering and expand their options.

But interaction with women engineers is not all of the answer.

There are plenty of bright girls, with all the requisite math, maybe even the daughters of women engineers, that say, "Engineeering? No way!" Why?

If you google reasons why, you will find reports such as: Many girls lack encouragement to pursue math and science, some parents and other influential adults unwittingly discourage girls with such remarks as "I never could do math" or "I always hated math when I was a child."

And even the dated (in my opinion) report that: Girls good in math may also worry about stereotypes that portray them as oddballs. One of the top ten reasons there aren't more women engineers, aeronautical engineer and former Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall once remarked, is because of concern "that they won't get a date to the prom if they get the highest math score."

I have a hard time believing these reports. The number of girls in higher level math is equal to the number of boys. And the high school girls I meet seem confident enough not to throw a math grade to get a date. So what is it about engineering or engineers that cause girls and young women to turn their backs? If anyone out there reading this has access to a middle school or high school girl mind and can get a candid answer I would love to discuss it.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

I'll try to remember to ask my 12 year old sister but my guess would be because she doesn't like math. (but she is good at it when she tries). I don't know why she doesn't like it though, because she is homeschooled and doesn't have a lot of the "normal" peer pressures other kids have.

I think in our household we just tended to prefer reading type subjects in general. I never even know much about engineering till I met my husband.