We Will Do It

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 24, 2009 10:25 am

Engineer Your Life is a terrific initiative serving to break down stereotypes and challenge social expectations about who can be an engineer. The goal is to inspire young women to consider engineering as a creative, team-oriented, and lucrative profession that makes a difference. Why does this matter? Well women comprise just 20.4% of engineering majors in universities and 11.1% of practicing engineers. Meanwhile, engineering is considered among the ‘fastest-growing occupations’. But that’s only the beginning…

EYL’s latest study surveyed high school girls, guidance counselors, and practicing engineers to understand ‘cultural perceptions of engineering and its feasibility as a career choice.’ These four messages tested best among the girls:

Live your life, love what you do. Engineering will challenge you to turn dreams into realities while giving you the chance to travel, work with inspiring people and give back to your community.

Creativity has its rewards. Women engineers are respected, recognized and financially rewarded for their innovative thinking and creative solutions.

Make a world of difference. From small villages to big cities, organic farms to mountaintops, deep-sea labs to outer space, women engineers are going where there is the greatest need and making a lasting contribution.

Explore possibilities. Women engineers often use their skills to go into business, medicine, law, or government. An engineering education will prepare you for many different careers.

In light of engineering’s persistent public image problem, these messages—which are aligned with the values and aspirations most important to girls—are convincing girls that engineering is exciting, meaningful, and definitely worth considering as a career. These messages are used throughout Engineer Your Life, and the coalition encourages the entire engineering community to adopt them in all your outreach activities and materials.

What a cool campaign! Just check out the EYL videos:

Initiatives like this give me hope that the next generation of engineers will include a lot more motivated women with the expertise and confidence to narrow the gender divide. For good.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education

Comments (3)

  1. Blogger

    Being scientist is a lucrative career?

  2. MadScientist

    Is there really a need for a campaign? 20% in classes and 10% in the engineering profession is great; only 30 years ago you’d be lucky to find 1 female student in a class of over 50 engineers. There are so many specialities in engineering though – how do you doll up the lot? Do you really need more engineers and fewer of something else (say, actors) – what do you expect that to accomplish, or will the world simply become a better place with more engineers? Not to mention having a shortage of engineers is always a good thing as far as engineers’ salaries are concerned.

  3. “MadScientist, thanks for the thoughtful response. The statistics are ok, but we believe they can and should improve. We hope the campaign continues a momentum that has been built up over many years. The wide net that is the field of engineering presents opportunities, not limits. Studies state that the demand for engineering related jobs will outweigh the supply over the next decade–and that technology and our culture will create new engineering related jobs that will certainly improve our lives. There are so many opportunities, and we believe girls should know all about them.”

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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