"Science is not a boy's game, it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game. It's about where we are and where we're going."—Nichelle Nichols, former NASA Ambassador and Star Trek actress
It's no secret that women continue to lag behind their male counterparts in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Even after all of these years, we're still trying to solve that complex equation to lead more women, girls and members of minority groups toward a career path that requires science and engineering skills.
Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to statistics from the National Science Foundation. When there's only one gender representing the majority of ideas in a field, it's clear that a whole segment of innovators are going untapped.
The opportunities are there – we just need to lead the way. Over the last decade, career opportunities in STEM fields have grown three times faster than in non-STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
That's why PennDOT celebrates Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (or Girl Day), part of National Engineers Week. We've made it a priority to mentor young women who want to explore PennDOT careers in engineering, to recruit diverse candidates into our workforce, and to nurture an inclusive organization that shines a light on our similarities and differences. Employees of all genders, nationalities, race, and orientation are important to PennDOT in achieving an organization that represents the diversity of the very people we serve in Pennsylvania.
The truth is, if we want to continue to make the kinds of cutting edge technological and engineering advances that keep the U.S. competitive, we need the insight and creativity of women and girls to help solve some of the problems, new and old, that face our nation and the world. And we not only want to pique their interest in STEM, we must help them succeed and remain in these careers for decades to come.
Interestingly, an article in the New York Times last week makes the case that access to technology like smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices actually helps put girls on par with boys when it comes to tech, or exceed them in some respects. The message is simple – give girls the confidence and a fighting chance to think like an engineer, and they just might surprise you.
Movements like Girl Day are important to help girls in your community realize that they can make the world a better place through an engineering career. You can also get involved by signing up to be a Girl Day Role Model and help girls realize their full potential.
The future is bright, if we continue to engineer a future for girls early and often.