Women make up 46% of the American workforce, but they account for only 24% of jobs in science, technology, and engineering. Why the disparity? There are lots of different theories, and precious few answers.
One thing we know for certain is that, according to a 2005 study by the Extraordinary Women Engineers Project, one of the best ways to draw young women into careers in the hard sciences is to expose them to role models. And for the past seven years, the National Engineers Week Foundation has been doing exactly that, through their Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day program. This year, "Girl Day" (as it's referred to by professional engineers) falls on Thursday, February 21.
The goal of this popular, worldwide program is to give young girls an upfront view of the world of engineering. Many of the activities and events associated with Girl Day are orchestrated and conducted by women engineers. This gives girls the opportunity to witness first-hand the personal and professional rewards that come with a career in engineering.
A more recent extension of Girl Day is the "Global Marathon For, By and About Women in Engineering." This event, which will run continuously from noon Wednesday, March 26, through noon Thursday, March 27, at www.eweek.org, includes exciting presentations and question-and-answer sessions from all over the world, all with the intent of increasing awareness of engineering, science, technology, and mathematics issues among young women of all ages, from high school students to those embarking on new careers.
Looking to help your daughter become the next Bette Nesmith Graham (inventor of Liquid Paper) or Sally Ride (first American woman in space)? Try this fun experiment provided by engineer Lisa Hutchings and Brownie Troop 1806 from Kutz Elementary in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
Make Your Own Silly Putty!
1 plastic drink cup
1/4 cup liquid starch
1/2 cup Elmer's glue
1 or 2 Popsicle sticks
1 or 2 zippered sandwich bags
baby wipes (for cleaning little hands after the experiment!)
Directions: In a plastic drink cup mix 1/4 cup liquid starch with 1/2 cup Elmer's glue and stir with a Popsicle stick until completely blended. Use hands if necessary to blend. (You can wash them with baby wipes or water if they get too goopy!) Store the silly putty in zippered sandwich bags.
If this cool lesson in colloids doesn't get your little one jazzed about pioneering new paths in the world of engineering (or if making silly putty with mom no longer fits within her definition of "cool"), try leaving the following books under her pillow: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh (for ages 9-1); You Can Be a Woman Engineer by Judith Love Cohen (for ages nine to twelve), or, if your little one isn't so little anymore, Is There an Engineer Inside You? A Comprehensive Guide to Career Decisions in Engineering by Celeste Baine (for high school readers).
And, for a list of Girl Day activities across the country visit: http://www.eweek.org/site/News/Eweek/2007_nationalpledgeroster.shtml.