Industry Looks to Girl Scouts for Next-Gen Workforce
by Nancy Pardo | February 28, 2015 | Product Lifecycle Report
It’s Engineers Week, and big industry is looking to Girl Scouts for its next generation of STEM workers.
As part of Girl Day—which is aimed at encouraging girls to pursue careers in engineering—companies like John Deere and Raytheon are finding Girl Scout troops, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and 4-H youth programs are the best places to start girls on a path to engineering.
In Ottumwa, Iowa, John Deere opened its doors to dozens of local Girl Scouts and 4-H members for a plant tour and informational sessions. The girls were broken into different age groups and worked with a female John Deere employee to learn about career opportunities at the company.
“Girls are very under-represented within the engineering major, so during this event we are trying to get them interested in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM),” said John Deere Program Manager Amber Pargman.
Raytheon, too, sponsored 16 events at various Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, where students got the opportunity to meet with female Raytheon engineers, and conduct various scientific experiments.
The United States is currently facing a shortage of STEM workers, and the lack of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math is compounding the issue. According to a 2012 U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee report, only 14 percent of engineers are women.
Over the past several years Girl Scouts of the USA has taken up the baton for STEM education, partnering with Lockheed Martin, NASA, FIRST Robotics, and the National Center for Women and IT (NCWIT), among others.
Throughout the year Girl Scout troops across states organize special STEM conferences and workshops—focusing on diverse areas like beekeeping, chaos theory, and computer animation—and are building stronger relationships with local industry.
Earlier this month, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio participated in hands-on STEM workshops given by various Cincinnati manufacturing companies. Activities included a marshmallow engineering challenge, welding an aluminum flower, and using a Plasma cutting machine.
Edison International recently awarded Girl Scouts of California $10,000 for a ‘IMAGINE Your STEM Future’ program targeted toward girls from underserved backgrounds in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
Exposing girls to hands-on experiences and providing mentors in STEM fields is critical according to a recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute.
Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, looks at girl’s attitudes toward STEM and what parents, teachers, and mentors can do to change ingrained perceptions and beliefs.
Surprisingly, the study finds that three-quarters of teenage girls are interested in STEM fields, but of that number, 60 percent say they know more about non-STEM careers.
Two-thirds of girls interested in STEM say they know someone in a STEM career and half of those interested say they know a woman in a STEM career. This suggests that while girls have a strong interest in STEM, they lack the exposure and mentorship to further their interests.
Perhaps less surprising, the study finds that girls are more attracted to STEM careers when there’s a human element, like helping people. Nearly all girls in the study say they want to make a difference in the world and 90 percent say they want to help people, but only 13 percent of the girls interested in STEM name a first-choice career in STEM fields.
This perception, that engineering doesn’t involve “helping” people, extends across the genders. According to research by Penn Schoen and Berland (PSB), 74 percent of teens consider engineering a career option only after the economic benefits and opportunities for real-world impact is explained to them.
Girl Day is an opportunity to break down these misconceptions.
Engineer Week organizer DiscoverE—formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation—put together a series of videos from female engineers across industries like Bachtel, Northrop Grumman, ExxonMobil, TE Connectivity, and Raytheon. The themes are of helping, teamwork, social good, curiosity, and creativity. Follow your passion with confidence and make a difference, seems to be the overarching message.
“And what’s cooler than that? Being really smart and being able to make the world a better place,” the videos conclude.