CHAPTER 6: EXTRA ACTIVITIES
I think that women don't consider engineering primarily because they don't have any exposure to engineering precursors like working on cars, construction, electronics projects. Involvement in these types of activities naturally lead people to consider themselves competent and interested in jobs as technologists or engineers. It also increases interest in technical subjects such as math, physics and other sciences at the high school level. Without practical experience in science, women (and men!) are intimidated by engineering.
Summer camps, high school science clubs, special science and mathematics activities, and conferences allow girls and young women freedom to experiment, to learn that science is fun, and to overcome fear of technology. Effective programs feature engineering-related activities such as mechanics or electronics, and hands-on experiments with scientific concepts. Other activities include day trips to museums, science centres, laboratories and engineering firms that employ women scientists and engineers (Appendix C).
Programs designed specifically for girls use the rationale that girls need to build self-confidence in a non-competitive environment where women are role models.
Girls in mixed-sex groups tend to hang back and let boys do the talking or manipulation. It is not 'cool' for girls to be seen as smart. Therefore, girls need opportunities to participate in single-sex classes or clubs and to work with female laboratory partners (Shelley Beauchamp, Women Inventors Project, Ontario Forum).
In higher grades where fewer girls choose science courses, isolation becomes a factor. One woman engineer felt "alone and unwelcome" as the only woman and the top student in her Grade 12 physics class.
During that last year of high school, I became used to being self-conscious and receiving a great deal of unwelcome attention, primarily because I was a girl in direct competition with the boys and I was the top student in the class. With an overwhelming majority of males in the class (and a mate teacher), the atmosphere was often uncomfortable for me.
Although most extracurricular activities are short-term and sporadic, they can have an influence on the interests of girls and young women. In Newfoundland and Labrador, a WISE Choices conference exposes girls to educational and occupational activities related to science and engineering. The evaluation of the 1989 conference suggested that more students hoped to pursue educational opportunities related to science and technology at the end of the conference than at the start (Minty, CCWE Conference).
I do know that in my past two years of involvement with Science Quest, I've had a lot of girls thank me for telling them about engineering, or tell me that they want to be an engineer, just like me, when they grow up. Considering that I didn't know anything about engineering when I was their age, I believe we've made a step in the right direction (Lois Wride, Science Quest, Queen's University, Ottawa Forum).
Extracurricular activities are especially important for elementary school children. Girls need to discover the relevance and fun of science and mathematics at a young age. The gender barrier affects the participation rate of girls in technological subjects such as engineering as early as age nine and is firmly in place by age 13 (McDill and Johnston, 1991). Educators should support the implementation of summer science camps for elementary school children.
Some universities offer enrichment mini-courses that give high school students opportunities to study science and mathematics. Career shadowing programs match junior and senior high schools students with university science and engineering students and/or engineers and scientists. Girls can gain much from co-operative education programs that involve a form of job shadowing. Work-experience programs for high school students in local industries, consulting science, technology and engineering in a non-engineering firms, and faculties of science and competitive environment. engineering can encourage both men and women to pursue careers in engineering (Appendix C).
7. The CCWE recommends that educators and employers develop extracurricular programs to ensure that girls and women develop self-confidence and competence in mathematics, science, technology and engineering in a non-competitive environment.Schedule for success: