Siemens' continually growing “Introduce a Girl to Engineering" Day event sparked the interest of more than 130 girls in grades 5-12 at the Siemens West Chicago, Illinois, plant Friday, March 13. The day marked the 11th annual event where young women conducted design experiments, toured the Siemens factory and learned about careers in STEM and the manufacturing industry.
"We did grow significantly [this year], from 95 students last year to 130 students at this year’s event," said Jayne Beck, manager of motor control center engineering at Siemens. "To accommodate the growing interest, Siemens plans to offer 'Introduce a Girl to Engineering' at other Chicago facilities later this year."
During “Introduce a Girl," participants were challenged to design and build a structure using dry spaghetti and marshmallows; construct a wind turbine from index cards, paper clips and a cork; and fly a paper airplane across the factory floor. All girls were entered into a drawing at the end of the evening and several went home with new iPads and books about engineering.
“I like to work with my dad building things and helping around the house,” Emily Carter, 13, a student at Belvedere Central Middle School, said. “But there are not many classes at school. It’s cool to be here and learn how engineering works.”
Beck explained that during the event, mentors explained how underrepresented girls are in engineering fields, with only 1 in 10 engineers being female.
"We stress that there is no reason girls couldn’t represent 50 percent of the professionals in the field – or even more. One of our favorite questions we ask is: 'Girls, why are you letting the boys have all the good jobs?' This is usually met with stunned silence, and we feel like the point is made."
Many of the young girls may not be thinking about the realities of their future careers at the time, but Beck says they want to plant the seed that one day they will want and need to get a job and it's up to them what road to take.
"We go on to point out that it is completely up to them what jobs for which they will be qualified," she says. "We explain the vast career choices open to engineers, from the more classical design opportunities to careers in law, medicine, sales, marketing and more."
The Siemens West Chicago facility manufactures motor control centers, switchboards and enclosed controls for companies in the food and beverage, aerospace, automotive, metals and paper industries. According to Siemens, orders have increased recently, allowing the plant to hire an additional 35 floor employees.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering is one of the many programs that support Siemens diversity initiatives and the effort to close the training gap in American manufacturing. The Siemens Foundation gives $7 million annually to STEM-focused educational initiatives.
Currently, three other Chicago-area Siemens facilities have “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” events scheduled for the fall.