NCDOT hosting “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” events

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2015

There’s a gender gap in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – fields, especially engineering.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, well under 15 percent of engineers are women, and only one in 10 STEM professionals is a minority woman. In post-secondary engineering schools, women represent just 20 to 23 percent of students.

This shortfall in prospective STEM graduates, particularly female, limits the available resources for new technology innovation in the U.S.

Many chalk up the difference to a lack of female role models in STEM fields to begin with. “It’s a vicious cycle,” said Jocelyn Goldfein, a director of engineering at Facebook.

“The reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is because there aren’t more women computer scientists,” she said.

Golfein believes the problem starts as early as grade school. Young girls are rarely encouraged to pursue math and science, which is problematic considering studies show a lack of belief in intellectual growth can actually inhibit it.

In addition, there exists an unconscious bias that science and math are typically “male” fields while humanities and arts are primarily “female” fields, and these stereotypes further inhibit girls’ likelihood of cultivating an interest in math and science.

Popular culture plays a role, as well. Girls grow up seeing women in powerful positions as doctors and lawyers on television, but the media continues to promote stereotypes when it comes to programmers, often portraying them as geeky men.

The N.C. Department of Transportation hopes to change that stigma and turn those statistics around by introducing North Carolina’s female middle and high school students to the world of engineering with four upcoming workshops across the state.

“These events are eye opening,” said one of last year’s attendees. “I always enjoyed my math and science classes but didn’t know how to turn these interests into cool careers. Thanks to this special program, now I do.”

At the Department of Transportation’s “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” event, students get a taste for the industry by taking part in fun, hands-on activities and getting first-hand career knowledge by females currently working in the field.

Through programs like this, the department hopes to create a pool of women engineers in a male-dominated profession who will bring their unique skills and talents to North Carolina once they graduate.

An “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” event will take place Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Forsyth Tech-Mazie Woodruff Center, 4905 Lansing Drive in Winston-Salem,.

For more information and to register for the event, contact Gail Herring, coordinator for “Introduce a Girl to Engineering,” at 919-707-4442 or gherring@ncdot.gov.

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