Introduce a girl to engineering, and she can change the world. That’s the belief behind DiscoverE’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, an annual effort to facilitate engineering activities and provide mentorship opportunities for young girls.
In the United States, the Engineering profession has long been—and continues to be—male-dominated. Cultivating girls’ interest in engineering and building confidence in their problem-solving skills helps to address the gender gap and diversify the field. With increased diversity, the engineering field can capitalize on a more robust talent pool and increased opportunities for innovation.
According to DiscoverE’s Despite the Odds 2019 Executive Summary, several factors link a young woman to choosing engineering and/or persisting in engineering:
- Demonstrating an interest in engineering
- Exhibiting confidence in her skills to perform engineering work
- Believing that engineers work to solve significant problems and contribute to society
- Embracing a STEM identity
- Having a support network of friends, family, peers, and/or role models
- Possessing the ability to draw strength from social/cultural struggle to overcome obstacles
- Feeling like she belongs in the community of engineers/engineer students
Organizations Focused on Girls in Engineering
Organizations across the country recognize the importance of reaching young girls to introduce and encourage an interest in engineering. The Society of Women Engineers, The Franklin Institute’s GSK Science in the Summer, and Girls Who Code are examples of the nationwide effort to build a pipeline of future female engineers.
Many local options also exist, and participating as a girl or adult mentor can be easy, regardless of where you call home. Little associates, civil engineer Skylar Gomez, PE, and interior architect Sofia Flores, support aspiring female engineers through a local engineering program with Charlotte Engineering Early College (CEEC). School and community clubs like CEEC’s WOMENgineers Club allow students to meet people outside of their classes and engage across grade levels, schedules, and facilities.
“These kinds of opportunities offer more representation, transparency, and real-life examples than what happens in the classroom,” Skylar said.
A small school with a small student body split across campuses, CEEC provides dual enrollment opportunities for its students through a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. When CEEC students visit the UNCC campus for classes, they gain exposure to college students, coursework, and discussions. The club’s student founder, Eliza Haines, wanted to expand that exposure beyond the classroom and into real-life career fields. Why not give CEEC students a similar glimpse into the “next step” as their college peers?
“We want to create a network for young women at CEEC to provide a support system and guidance,” said Lisa Duong, CEEC junior and current WOMENgineers Club member.
“The WOMENgineers Club was one of the most meaningful projects I worked on in my high school career,” Eliza said. “I am proud to see how far the WOMENgineers are taking the club now and the profound impact the club is making.”
How Adults Can Get Involved
Little’s connection with CEEC’s WOMENgineers Club spurred from a UNCC career fair. Lisa attended and encountered Skylar at Little’s information table. Lisa had previously job-shadowed in our Charlotte office and asked Skylar if she would speak to the club.
The experience impacted Skylar. So much so, she extended an invitation to women across Little’s Charlotte office to participate. Sofia answered the call.
Before pursuing architecture, Sofia studied art and was torn between interior architecture or law as her next step. She had several mentors throughout her adolescence and college career who impacted her and helped her ultimately decide to become an architect. Sofia credits her dad, a high school art teacher, and multiple female professors during college for guiding and boosting her self-confidence during those formative years.
“Confidence takes you places,” Sofia said. “It’s important to share your journey and envision what the future can look like. I came from another country, and learning how people arrive at different places, how they adapt from different cultures, inspires me.”
Although many years Sofia’s junior, WOMENgineers Club President and CEEC sophomore Honor King shares the same sentiment.
“It’s always cool peeling back the layers of a person and seeing how they got to where they are,” Honor said. “What classes they took, activities they did, people they connected with.”
While Honor and Lisa are both still in high school, they are eager and enthusiastic about what’s to come. Honor is studying computer science with a desire to explore her creative side. Lisa is intrigued by architecture, biomedical science, and engineering.
For these girls, the sky is the limit. Skylar sums it up perfectly. “If the world is in their hands, we’ll be fine.”