Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Calling all "Geek Girls"

The latest in what's become an increasingly fretful series of articles about the lack of women entering the nation's (quickly depleting) pool of engineers suggests is examining models of university recruitment programs targeting women students.

A standout, it seems, has been the effort by MIT, where "targeted programs have yielded 36 percent female enrollment in undergraduate engineering," according to the article by the AP's Dorie Turner.

This still seems the exception rather than the rule, however. The articles focuses on other unversities' initiatives that have not reaped the same benefits. Women are still not entering the field in the needed numbers, in large part because of social and cultural obstacles -- such as stereotypes of the nerdy engineer, or the perception that engineering isn't a field "that allows you to help people" -- rather than industry or workplace obstacles.

Clearly, the path to success in the field is a tough one for women, and perhaps moreso for minority women in particular, as recounted in the profile, "How I Got Where I Am: An Engineering Manager," by College Journal's Adelle Waldman on the Village.

However, as a range of engineering-related industries are growing ever more hysterical over a looming labor crisis, a combination of university and industry intiatives designed to walk women engineers through the many stages of their career development seems to be reaping some results. As the Waldman profile shows, there were many times that Tonya Love, a young Black woman who worked her way into a gratifying position as a project leader at Xerox, doubted that the field was or could be a good one for her. Support in grad school, good advice, and a series of strong internships were crucial stepping stones that kept her going.

In another piece, young Sophie Theis, writing for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, sees a subtle cultural change going on, however, that might be good news for engineering schools. In Who Asked Us -- The New (Female) Nerd and the 'Gender Gap,' Theis argues that "the new gender gap is all about attitude":
The new nerd is a hard-working girl, while boys try hard to not try too
hard. That's why so many girls are achieving more than boys in high school and

The development of a "geek-chic for girls" could bode well for companies looking to keep up their supply of skilled engineers, such as our many, many clients of who are specifically looking to fire engineers of all types and levels at The editors are interested in keeping up with stories on this theme in the future, and would also be interested in hearing from some proud "geeks" out there to hear your views on what led to your interests in engineering, computing and similar fields. If you have a story to share with us, please drop us a line.