24 hours to promote engineering to girls

Sally Ride and other female engineers run online discussions and webcasts over a two-day period.

In an effort to inspire more girls to enter the field of engineering, National Engineers Week Foundation sponsored a 24-hour webcast that brought together female engineers, teachers and educators to demystify the male-dominated field, reports eSchool News.

The Global Marathon for, by, and about Women in Engineering, held March 22-23 was webcast in order to change girls' perceptions about the field of engineering.

Opening the event was Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and the first U.S. woman in space.

"I think it's important for ... all the women who are in science and engineering who love it and have had fulfilling careers to transmit that message to the girls growing up, to tell them this is really interesting stuff," Ride said.

Students could log on to discussion topics such as "Live Your Life, Love What You Do: Talking to High School Girls About Engineering," "Why Engineering is Fun," and "Advancing the Pipeline of Women in Engineering: What You Can Do to Help Recruit and Retain Female Undergraduates."

Encouraging girls who are good at math and science to go into engineering can sometimes be and uphill battle.

"Girls don't get less smart; once you know you're good at math and science and like it, that's going to be the way it stays," said Heather Johnston Nicholson, director of research for Girls Inc. "Math, science, technology, and engineering are not closed to girls—they can find [an interest in these subjects] later as well as earlier, but the earlier the better," she said.

The survey found that 35 percent of girls in grades 3-12 said they believe it's true people don't think girls are effective leaders. While that's down from about 47 percent in 2000, it's still too high, webcast participants said.

"Even today, society values beauty in girls over intelligence and talent," said one ninth-grade girl quoted in the report.