Over the past few decades, an increasing number of young women have begun successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM fields. Yet, women remain vastly underrepresented in many STEM careers. For example, while 32% of physicians today are women, just 14% of engineers are women. During National Engineers Week, which takes place February 21-27, we celebrate Girl Day to raise awareness of this issue and introduce girls to the field of engineering.
The absence of women in engineering has been credited to a lack of female engineering role models, misconceptions of what it’s like to be an engineer, and young women having fewer technical problem solving opportunities than men. Together, these factors contribute to many girls feeling less confident in their math and science abilities, which can eventually lead to girls both dropping out of or avoiding STEM degrees completely. This issue has grown in such severity that just this month President Obama introduced a new initiative to help young girls and minorities build skills in STEM fields.
Today, many communities are dealing with pressing, complex issues. To solve these issues, we must build a strong, diverse workforce inclusive of our best and brightest young people. Engineers are our world’s problem solvers. They creatively use their skills in science and mathematics to design solutions that benefit us all. Engineers work in a variety of places, from hospitals to construction sites, inventing new technology, designing a building, or managing an entire company. For engineers, the possibilities of success are truly endless.
For girls, a career in STEM can present them the opportunity to change the world. It is also a step in the right direction towards achieving wage equality. The wage gap for women in STEM fields is 86 cents of a man’s earnings, compared to 78 cents for all careers combined. The difference in salary can lead to women losing hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime. As more women enter career fields like engineering, our communities and world improve for the better.
Girls Inc. is working to introduce more girls to STEM through hands-on, minds-on programs and experiences that build their skills and confidence in math and science. In an exciting and supportive environment, girls put those skills to the test through critical problem solving, seeing STEM play out in real life. In addition, girls have the opportunity to build relationships with trusting mentors, who act as role models and encourage them to pursue careers in fields they would have not otherwise considered.
As we celebrate National Engineers Week, consider how you can encourage the girls in your life to pursue STEM fields such as engineering. In doing so, together, we can ensure our future workforce benefits from the talents and perspectives of the brightest girls and young women our community offers.