Engineers do amazing work that makes our world a better place. Engineer Jane Chen co-created the Embrace portable, infant warmer that has saved hundreds of thousands of premature babies. Engineer Joshua Miele designs technologies that include tactile maps to better assist the mobility of disabled persons.
We love engineering because of examples like these. We think more girls would too if they knew about change makers like Jane Chen and Joshua Miele. The theme of this year’s Engineers Week — Creating the Future — highlights how engineers are making a better world by innovating solutions to global challenges.
Imagine if girls were inspired to see a brighter future in engineering and aspired to be engineers who build and invent solutions to local and global challenges. Girl Day, a worldwide campaign to engage girls in engineering, aims to do just that. Girl Day, on February 23, 2023, is part of Engineers Week which raises awareness of engineers’ contributions to our quality of life and increases interest in engineering careers. DiscoverE aims to inspire all youth by supporting partners with their outreach. DiscoverE can help you plan and host your Girl Day with resources that include research-based messages and activities.
We don’t just want girls to learn about engineering in one day. We want girls to find a lasting passion for engineering. Here are five ideas to spark their interest and create a lifelong love of all things engineering.
1. Share the love. The most important lesson to get girls interested in engineering we learned from Lyn Gomes, a mechanical engineer and amazing role model. Lyn loves her work and gushes about the projects she’s supported when she does outreach. When role models show excitement for their work, girls do too. In fact, at the end of a visit with Lyn, girls often comment how they want to grow up and do what Lyn does. Lyn shares that, while this kind of interaction — sharing passion — might not be common in the workplace, it is essential when being a role model with youth.
We are glad to see that DiscoverE appreciates the importance of enthusiasm that role models like Lyn demonstrate. You can find your unique way to express your passion with 10 Reasons to Love Engineering.
2. Role models matter. Make sure to set them up for success with training and resources. Engineers want to do their best but may not know just how to appeal to a roomful of young girls. Help them learn the recipe for success, which includes sharing their personal story, leading a hands-on activity that connects with girls, and communicating the personal joys of their job. For help in developing skills to engage girls through videos, reflection questions, and more check out Techbridge Girls Role Models Matter (™) training program. We also love this short and sweet video for role models from Scientific Adventures for Girls.
Connect girls with online role models for after Girl Day. Some of our favorite places to find relatable and diverse role models include AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors, FabFems, CareerGirls, and EngineerGirl.
3. Before you get started, ask how you can make your Girl Day inclusive. Don’t leave out youth who are disabled from Girls Day. Be intentional and find partners who can help recruit youth with disabilities. Extend an invitation to role models who have disabilities. They can help dispel stereotypes and show by example how their perspectives and experiences lead to better products and services for us all.
We find inspiration in the projects for neurodivergent learners highlighted by the STEM for All Multiplex in January 2023. Check out the IDEAS (inventing, designing, and engineering on the autism spectrum) project, which is a partnership between the New York Hall of Science, New York University, and EDC for afterschool.
4. Empower caregivers on Girl Day and the days and weeks after. When you ask a girl about the role models in her life, she is likely to answer that it’s her parents. Caregivers don’t need to be an engineer to be a champion for engineering. They do need to encourage their daughters and help them find opportunities to explore their interest in engineering. Share hands-on activities that girls can do at home with siblings and caregivers. Be mindful of activities that make use of materials that every household has. You can find at-home engineering activities from DiscoverE and Scientific Adventures for Girls.
You can also help by communicating the importance of summer experiences and helping caregivers find summer programs. Look for organizations that offer engineering programs that are accessible by public transportation, free or low cost, and are fun and culturally relevant. For more ideas to empower caregivers, check out our blog Introduce a Girl (and Her Family) to Engineering Day from 2019.
Photo credit: Million Girls Moonshot
5. Keep the momentum going. One-off experiences aren’t likely to sustain girls’ interest in engineering, but there are lots of engineering programs in which girls can further their interests in engineering. You can help by being intentional and stitching together connections between Girl Day and these opportunities. Here are two offerings to check out.
The Flight Crew program embodies the Million Girls Moonshot mission by supporting STEM learning in afterschool. Motivated by their impactful STEM experiences, these young leaders work in their communities to break down stereotypes and spark their peers’ curiosity in STEM.
The Ambassador Program hosted by EngineerGirl offers a year-long opportunity to build leadership skills. These Ambassadors receive training and funding to lead a project in their local community to encourage younger girls — particularly those with little access to engineering role models — to learn about engineering and engineering careers.
We hope that these five ideas give you inspiration to spread the love for engineering. Share your successes and lessons learned from your Girl Day on social media. Tag @girlsmoonshot @STEMNext #GirlDay2023 #MillionGirlsMoonshot #EWeek2023
Linda Kekelis. I an advisor on The Family Engagement Project and Million Girls Moonshot with STEM Next Opportunity Fund. My love for engineering began a long time ago. When I was little, I built furniture for my Barbie dolls with my brother’s erector set. In my life’s work I have supported role models and caregivers in creating and sustaining girls’ love for engineering