How Do You Develop More Female Engineers?

    28 January, 2015

    Not enough American students want to be engineers, mathematicians, or scientists. The Obama administration wants to change that. They are spending money to do it. The government will invest three billion dollars in the education of young Americans in science, technology, engineering, and math. The four areas together are known as STEM.

    Many jobs in the STEM fields will open in the coming years. The U.S. government's investment aims to increase the number of Americans who can take those jobs.

    Yet girls appear far less interested in STEM subjects than boys. Only 25 percent of STEM students are girls.

    Camsie McAdams is at the U.S. Education Department. She says girls simply do not feel welcomed in STEM subjects. Ms. McAdams says young women look at industries such as engineering and computer science and see most of the leaders are men.

    "We, as women, want to have people that look like us, people that we can relate to. A lot of times what distracts people from entering the field, or, even when they get the degree, keeps them from wanting to work in the field, is because they don't feel welcomed."

    Debbie Sterling is an engineer. She invented a construction toy for girls. The name of the toy is "Goldie Blox." Ms. Sterling hopes Goldie Blox will help girls develop spatial skills. Spatial skills help engineers and builders to think about objects in three dimensions.

    To interest girls, Sterling created the character "Goldie." Goldie does not care about beauty or clothes. Goldie tells stories, solves difficult problems and creates pretend worlds.

    Mia is a seven-year-old girl who likes science. In her room, she has no fashion dolls. Instead, she has a pegboard, wheels, blocks and an inventor's journal to write her observations.

    Mia received a set of Goldie Blox from her grandmother. She learned to make a machine with the blocks.

    "When my grandmother first sent me the present, a spinning machine, I was really excited. I knew it had to do with engineering, so I grabbed the box and opened it. Then I went for more -- I went to the web site; I went on YouTube to find more videos. My mom asked me why I was just watching videos instead of building. I told her I didn't have enough pieces. She got me the builder survival kit."

    Experts say parents should do more than just buy toys to interest their girls in STEM subjects. They should also provide a good education. At school, girls should participate in projects that require teamwork and creative thinking.

    Women in scientific and technical jobs are also working to encourage young women to explore STEM. One is Anu Tewary. She studied Applied Physics and worked for technology companies. After she had a daughter, she started Technovation Challenge. The challenge is an international competition for young women from 10 to 18 years old.

    Technovation offers girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs. Since 2009, over 2,500 girls from 28 countries have developed 650 mobile phone applications. They learned to launch start-up companies through Technovation.

    There's a good chance that soon, more young women using mobile phones will also be developing programs for them.

    I'm Anne Ball.

    Anush Avetisyan reported this story. Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    STEM - acronym. referring to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math

    construction - n. the act or process of building something

    spatial - adj. of or relating to space and the relationship of objects within it

    dimensions - n. the length, width, height or depth of something

    pretendadj. not real; imaginary

    entrepreneur - n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

    technical - adj. relating to the practical use of machines