Should You Encourage Your Daughter to Become an Engineer?

Should women be engineers and scientists? Decades ago many might have said no, but in recent years women have slowly increased their presence in these fields. Still, great strides remain to be made and the statistics still heavily favor men in these careers. So should you encourage your daughter to buck the trend or pursue a more 'female-oriented' profession?

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Unpopular Choice

During the 2006-07 school year, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that only 17% of engineering degrees were awarded to women. According to most recent statistics, less than 10% of engineers in the United States are women.

It would seem that females have an uphill battle if they wish to enter jobs in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Why is this so?

Stereotyping is likely the main culprit. Women aren't supposed to be interested in science and math, right? In many cases, this idea is impressed upon girls at a young age. Many girls do not like science and math, making them unpopular. So what happens if a girl decides to pursue these subjects? She will likely become unpopular herself. Easier to stick with what all the other girls are doing, right?

Sadly, that might be exactly what's happening. It's impossible to know how many potentially successful female engineers have been steered in another direction even while in elementary or high school by peers who simply don't understand that these subjects are not male-exclusive.

Other factors come into play when talking about male dominance in STEM-related fields: the wide belief that men are simply smarter when it comes to STEM subjects, male superiority regarding spatial skills and low self-esteem in girls when it comes to science, technology or math.

Against All Odds

Many acknowledge the void when it comes to women and engineering or other STEM-focused careers. Is enough being done to entice women into the field?

Some colleges actively work to recruit women to pursue engineering and other STEM-related degrees. Some provide mentors or tutoring programs for women interested in studying engineering. Efforts are being made to reach out to high school girls to generate interest in STEM subjects.

But arguably one of the most influential sources of support will come from parents. And if your daughter comes home one day and says she wants to be an engineer, the decision should definitely be encouraged.

Why? Because the stereotype needs to be put to rest. Because women shouldn't feel intimidated or afraid to compete in a male-dominated arena. Because engineering generally lacks the vision and voice of women.

Consider: early airbags in automobiles were designed by mainly male engineers and were 'tailored...to male adult bodies,' according to authors Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher in their 2002 book, Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. This, say the authors, resulted in 'avoidable deaths for women and children.'

So believe in her. Watch the Discovery Channel with her. Encourage her participation in science projects. Help her research colleges with the best engineering programs. Ultimately, let your daughter's voice be heard. As Will Rogers once said, 'Women are not the weak, frail little flowers that they are advertised. There has never been anything invented yet...that a man would enter into, that a woman wouldn't, too.'

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