What Girls Think About Engineering

(And a Surprising Source of Their Negative Impressions)

A coalition of more than 55 engineering organizations, formed in Spring 2004, set out to discover why so few academically prepared high school girls were entering engineering programs, and what could be done to increase their numbers. One of the coalition members, WGBH, conducted qualitative consumer research and produced the report, Extraordinary Women Engineers.

Two findings from the report stood out:

1. Girls (as well as their parents, teachers, and counselors) believe:

  • Engineers must be exceptional at both math and science 
  • Engineering is difficult and challenging

2. It is the engineering community that is contributing to their limited understanding of the profession.

Rather than conveying what it’s like to be an engineer, and sharing what we love about the field with young people, we tend to discuss the process of becoming an engineer, concentrating on the necessary qualifications and emphasizing all of the potential hurdles along the way. What’s emphasized to girls (and boys) is how challenging the process is, not the reasons one would want to become an engineer in the first place. In a well-meaning effort to arm potential engineers with a healthy dose of realism, we often forget to also convey what is attractive and meaningful about the profession.

For Further Reference
See the report, Extraordinary Women Engineers, or watch researcher Kito Robinson presenting the findings in a video.                                                

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