Research shows that girls and young women lose interest in subjects and the fields of study leading to engineering careers long before they enter college.
Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school, I was always encouraged to like math and science. It ended up that I really did and still do enjoy solving problems in these subject areas. I remember going to various "women in math" workshops where we would take a day off from regular school activities and spend our time doing fun math problems and working with other girls to solve them. It was a really cool experience for me because I was able to use my love of math to work toward solving something that may have been too challenging in another setting. Activities like these existed all through middle school and high school, although I did not take place in all of them.
According to the National Engineers Week Foundation, only 20 percent of undergraduate engineers are women. That's an improvement, but still not nearly as high as that number could be. Being an aspiring engineer at Purdue, I find myself surrounded by guys in most of my classes. Although there are plenty of girls in my classes as well, it is obvious that engineering is still a male dominated field. It is the community's job to introduce girls to engineering, but once they have made the decision to become an engineer it is the job of their chosen university to keep them interested.
Purdue has a variety of programs for women in science and engineering to participate in and become associated with. The biggest organization in this area is the Society of Women Engineers. This is a national organization, with one of its biggest branches being right here at Purdue. I am involved with this group and it is one of my favorite groups on campus because it is filled with fun, normal girls who are diverse and interesting. We have social gatherings, such as a spring dance, and we also do community service and host a job fair in the spring semester. It is a great organization for a female in engineering to get involved in because it sets you up with some resources and older people to talk to who have already been through the things you are going through.
Other organizations that Purdue has to offer for women in engineering, science and technology include Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in these fields, and WIEP, the Women in Engineering Program. Both of these organizations have their benefits. Phi Sigma Rho is a social sorority which is comprised of women with the understanding that they are all in challenging majors, so there is a very flexible committment schedule compared to other social greek life. WIEP has a mentor programs which sets up a first year engineering student with an older student who meets with them regularly and checks to see how classes are going throughout the year. All three of these organizations do a great job at making women feel like they are not alone in their pursuit of a major in a male dominated field.