engineering and girls

  • “You need to be very flexible and have people skills, management and communication skills,” an aspect of the profession … women have a lot to contribute to. —UConn
  • focus on solutions not problems, on possibilities not limits, and on the common human experience. —ProjectEngin
  • “I just want what’s on the rubric, but for whatever reason the girls tend to spend more time — at home — making theirs very colorful.” —Patterns Poster for Algebra 1

Explore – What’s the problem?

Why aren’t there more young women entering engineering? Girls are just as smart as boys and often better prepared to study engineering at college. Somewhere along the way from curious third graders to college-ready high schoolers, girls decide to pursue other career higher education and career choices.


  • Which are the best/worst predictors of success (graduation) in engineering? Can students with average high school grades do ok in engineering? Examples of B and C students who graduate and go on to successful careers?
  • Are girls study skills generally better than boys entering engineering?
  • Besides spatial visualization skills, are there other areas where girls are frequently behind boys? How big a handicap is this? Can these be addressed as engineering preparation?
  • What colleges are most flexible in admissions? High acceptance of less qualified students? Why?
  • What are schools doing to attracting more girls?
  • Message – only 1 of you 3 will make it though year 1 vs. you 3 need to work together so you will all succeed as there is too much for just 1 of you alone.
  • Engineering is “hard” as compared to what? Because boys don’t have great study skills?
  • motivation – is this worth it to me to put in the effort? put up with the bias, guy-things? lack of relevance? application to important / social / humanitarian issues?
  • Is there prior knowledge that is critical to success in college engineering that boys have and girls don’t that isn’t scored or tested?

Of course there isn’t a single simple answer. There are plenty of things – large and small. that can alter the current “leaky pipeline” – girls with lots of interest and ability not becoming engineers ready and able to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing our global community.

Examples – What can it do? * solutions

e4k * Engineer Your Life – Four messages tested the strongest among high school girls

Engineer Your Life presents engineering as a creative, lucrative, team-oriented profession that allows people to make a difference. An independent study conducted by Veridian Insight LLC and American Institutes for Research shows that Engineer Your Life’s messages are breaking down stereotypes about engineering and increasing high school girls’ interest in the field.

  • 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.

Engineering – How did they do that? How does it work?

Study skills, preparation

  • Many students entering engineering school did well in high school without developing good time management, learning skills or collaboration skills. In college all the courses are “hard” not because the concepts and work are more difficult, but because these students aren’t successful without putting in more effort to learn the material.

K-12 Outreach

  • students turn away from science and engineering as early as the third grade, which makes those years a critical time to step in and show girls the field. “If they’re doing outreach to high school students, a lot of those students have already self-selected into STEM —UConn

How engineering is presented in the lower grades K-8, and the impact can have on girls’ view of engineering. This invariably results in girls turning their interests and talents elsewhere.

Most male practicing engineers tell the kids and teachers that engineering school is “hard”. Most women engineers I talk to didn’t think engineering was especially difficult. One explanation is that girls are well prepared with better learning skills and time management than their male peers. We often hear about boys who did well in high school by studying all night before an exam. Then they find that college engineering is “hard”.

In your research, do you have any information about the relative perceived difficulty of college engineering for men and women students? For girls who have always had “perfect” grades in high school, is traditional engineering school curved grading problematic? Are there areas of prior knowledge that girls need that are not offered and/or tested in high school?

One Dean of Engineering observed that girls self-select out of engineering, even though they are well qualified. Boys with far lower grades and scores have no problem gaining admission and successfully complete engineering programs to become accomplished professionals. We are working to find more ways to help girls see that they are engineers, too.