New opportunities: Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day helps to break boundaries


Photo by Max Feldman

One girl learns to use photoshop and other programs in a computer design course. Girls are showing more interest in STEM fields as a result of classes like the girl’s engineering day.

By Max Feldman, Lake Zurich High School

Girls are breaking boundaries every day, but the STEM field has remained largely male-dominated. One new event tried drawing girls into engineering, hoping that gender gap could close.

The Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day has annually been held at the UIUC campus, but this year the school started recommending the event, according to Jeanette Greco, career mentor. Greco says the event was a unique opportunity for girls and possibly impacted their careers in the future.

“The big thing is it offered opportunities at a college level, which is huge, and it definitely gave the idea for any students who attended, what they need to achieve their goals,” Greco said. “So for any girls that were thinking of being mechanical engineers, this event gave them information on how to achieve that goal, and what is expected of them. It was basically a chance to see if [engineering] is a career option.”

Girls like Anagha Rajagopalan, senior, say that the engineering day brought more than just career paths. According to Rajagopalan, events like these bring equality and are the best possibility of closing the gender gap.

“There is such a big disparity between men and women who are being introduced,” Rajagopalan said. “Since these [girls] are going to be entering the workplace soon, society has a responsibility to bridge that divide. One important aspect of these events is to show girls that they are capable, and give them more opportunities.”

However, there are many girls who feel too intimidated to even look at a field like engineering, according to Katie Fitzgerald, sophomore. Fitzgerald says that events like these are important, but that the odds are against girls trying to get into that career.

“Based on the classes I’m taking, like anatomy and what not, the classes are more equal between men and women. But when it comes to engineering, I feel like building machinery is just mostly male-dominated,” Fitzgerald said.

Society is mostly to blame for this imbalance, Rajagopalan said, with media mostly discouraging girls from engineering. According to Rajagopalan, the key to getting girls interested is to show them that they are capable of succeeding in STEM.

“Family, friends, peers, media, lots of things tell girls that STEM is just not for them. But that’s not the case, there is a need for girls in the engineering field. I remember we watched a movie in Girls Who Code where they talked about the development of the seatbelt, and the engineer team was all male. Once they released the product, many women and children died just because they did not think about other body types, so having that diversity is essential.”

Despite negative influences, Greco says that these events are still relevant. Through a more comfortable environment, events like the engineering day help wipe out preconceptions, according to Greco.

“I would say that the sheer numbers of how many engineers were ladies [at the event] would wipe out preconceptions. When we start seeing an equal amount of men and women in engineering, [like at these events], I think those preconceptions will change. Right now it is literally 80/20, 80 percent of them are male compared to 20 percent women, which just is not right. [Women are not in the engineering field because] people think women can’t handle it, or cannot understand complex things, so that’s part of the problem.”



This story was originally published on Bear Facts on November 5, 2018.