Sunday, July 27, 2008

Your daughter the engineer

Here's the latest from ABC:

Many teachers and parents have said it: Boys are better than girls at mathematics. But is it true? The lack of women mathematicians, engineers and physicists has often been cited as proof of a difference in the sexes in math performance. But a team of researchers, writing in the Journal Science, says the conventional wisdom is completely wrong.

Fifteen years ago it was an issue that filled the headlines--that by high school, girls were falling 50 points behind boys on the S.A.T. college entrance exam. Here's part of an ABC story from 1994: A girl in 1994 said, "Every time I see math, I just, I try and stay away from it."

But something has changed. Romana was a baby in 1994 when that first story aired. Now she's building robots in a special course at the New Jersey Institute of Technology--and she says she loves the stuff.

Ned: "What is it about math that you like?"
Romona: "The fact that I understand it, like, sometimes I don't have to study to actually get it, it just comes natural to me."

Researchers looked at the test score of more than seven million kids grades two to 11 and whatever difference there used to be, they're now gone. What's happened? Among other things hi-tech has turned cool with everyone texting and downloading and some people getting very rich. And teachers have been reaching out aggressively to girls, urging them to get in on the action. Suzanne Berliner Hayman from the New Jersey Institute of Technology said, "Being interested in science, engineering and technology does not make you a geek, and as a matter of fact it's the geeks who rule the world."

The result: For the first time, girls are taking math as often as boys. Janet Hyde from the University of Wisconsin said, "I feel like I'm learning a lot more this year. We are not born knowing how to do calculus. And when girls take classes at the same rate as boys we tend to get a narrowing of the gender gap."

Most of America's engineers are still me--but that's changing. Half of the kids who go on to get math degrees are now female.

I can only think of one person I went to high school with who went on to become an engineer. I never event thought about it. I took calculus in high school and could have easily taken more math in college, but I didn't. I don't know why. Who knows. I may have event liked it!

How about you? Did you ever think about becoming an engineer? Will you encourage your kids down that path?


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Maria said...

Math was (and is) always easy for me, but I was more interested in socio-economic and environmental "stuff," so once in college, I didn't take much math, but I did take a lot of science. Oh and an elective. LOL! And I do work for the Corps of Engineers, so I have had to learn a lot about engineering for my job, and I wouldn't encourage or discourage it in my child. Yes, I have a boy, but even with a girl. I'd encourage her to do what she is interested in-- whether or not it fits the stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is going to be a 6th grader at Dunlap Valley Middle School and her favorite subjects happen to be math and science. I think the teachers in Dunlap do a great job with hands on science. I don't remember getting to do as many experiments as she did in 5th grade. I think the way they are teaching both math and science makes it much more interesting than when I took it. My husband is an engineer for CAT but my daughter wants to be a VET. I think girls doing better in math is a wonderful thing. I feel we have great teachers to thank for that.

Anonymous said...

I am a female engineer from the Dunlap area. I've been with CAT 28+ years. There were fewer female engineers when I started and we weren't always treated very well. Now, the times have changed and we are "mostly" treated as equals. There are quite a few young female engineers at work. Contact SWE - Society of Women Engineers for your daughters to find out what it is like being an engineer. I love it. The Dunlap schools arrange for job shadowing when the kids are Juniors. Take advantage of that program to see what a typical day as an engineer entails. said...

I am so thrilled with this great information from readers! It is very interesting to see what's going on with engineering right now. What a great perspective from anon#2. I have no idea what being an engineer at CAT entails. If you have time, please share. It sounds interesting! It sounds like a good T.V. interview too! We could follow you and a student.

SallyN said...

My bestest friend in the whole world is a female engineer. And quite successful at that too!

As a female geologist in the environmental consulting industry, I worked with so many engineers that I was a bit of a "pseudo-engineer". Actually, it was a tad frustrating when job-hunting, because so many companies had it in their head that they needed someone with an engineering degree to do my job.

Sorry, got off on a tangent there.

Husband IS an engineer... so it'll be interesting to see where Daughter's aptitude lies. said...

The Wall Street Journal says boys still outperform girls. It is a different take on this study. Thanks for letting me know Maria!

Shannon said...

One of the many reasons I loved majoring in broadcast journalism at the U of I was that the math requirement was "0 to 3" hours. LOL! My last math class was Junior year of high school but I do have a Bachelor's Degree!

That said, many of the sorority women I advise are engineering, science, and business majors. Our President currently has a 4.0 cumulative in Business. Another girl who just graduated with a degree in Physics is going on to graduate school at Cornell. I think it's becoming a lot more common for women to study these things - but more importantly, I think women today go and study what they want to and never think about what they "should" do, because to them it's the same thing. And more of them want to go into these fields.

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