Opportunities for Girls in Manufacturing
To have a girls-only week, or to not? That is the question when we are planning our Summer Manufacturing Institute STEM-based summer camp. I hear variations of the question from seasoned adults all the way down to my nine-year-old son.
Why do only girls get to go that week? “Sometimes,” I answer, “girls need a little more encouragement to go into science fields.”
So when we are talking about the press, why is this important? Let’s flash back to a few weeks ago, when one of our combat robotics teams was offered the chance to go to the Solidworks World conference in Los Angeles. This three-day conference welcomes in 5,000 people for workshops, demonstrations, and networking in the fields of design automation, electrical design, 3D CAD, and data management. In the weeks leading up to the event, the team was on the local news. One of the unique things about this team? It is made up entirely of girls.
The press never fails to mention the “all-girls team” and that they attend an “all-girls school.” Why the emphasis on gender – are we supposed to be surprised about their success, or what’s the point of mentioning it?
No, it’s not that we’re surprised. This all-girls team has a history of excellence in our robotics competition and have won the regional competition and placed in the National Robotics League competition. It’s not because they’re an all-girls team. It’s because of the resources they have and the community of proud alumnae they leverage.
Middle school Robobots teams have young women participating at about a 50/50 split, but the high school teams usually have one girl versus six or seven boys on the team. So where are the girls going?
They are going where they are recruited and according to The Manufacturing Institute’s “Minding the Manufacturing Gender Gap,” that is not into manufacturing. The report found an overall average of thirty-five percent of respondents’ companies did not have an active recruitment program to attract potential female employees. Furthermore, only twelve percent felt that K-12 schools actively encourage girls to pursue manufacturing careers.
It’s important for the news to call attention to their gender, because we simply don’t have as many women as men on our shop floors.
Times are changing, however, and initiatives like STEP Forward and companies such as GE are promising to have 50/50 men and women by 2020.
So that’s why we need to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers. It’s not that we’re surprised that the all-girls team is going to LA, writing about their adventures in national trade magazines, and are generally sending home their competition in a box. No, we’re not surprised, we’re proud that more women are interested in manufacturing and that is something to celebrate and promote.