Reaching Out to a Younger Generation

During the Society’s first two decades, members encouraged young women to pursue engineering by presenting information sessions and career slideshows, and awarding certificates of achievement to young women in science fairs and math classes — almost entirely at the high school level. By the 1970s, however, members realized that many young women had already cemented their plans for the future by that age. SWE would have to reach out to younger girls to recruit the next generation of women engineers.

In 1973, members in Pittsburgh consulted on scripts for the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, introducing preschoolers to the idea of career women. Throughout the 1970s, SWE presidents advised the Girl Scouts on its then-sparse career programming, and members developed STEM activity badges for regional councils in the 1980s and ’90s.

In recent decades, SWE’s outreach has transformed into hands-on events designed to bring engineering concepts and confidence to young girls and women. Among them is the Society’s flagship “Invent It. Build It.” event, drawing hundreds of students to the annual conference each year since its debut in 2010.

– Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist

LEFT: In 1979, SWE Boston Section members wrote, illustrated, and published Terry’s Trip, a coloring book featuring the story of a young girl who spends the day at a toy factory with her engineer aunt. RIGHT: Girls tried on diffraction glasses at SWE’s Explorathon for children in 1st through 12th grade at the 1999 annual convention in Phoenix.
LEFT: Students design a “harmless holder” for soda cans at the “Invent It. Build It.” outreach event at WE11 in Chicago. RIGHT: An April 9, 2010, article in the Wall Street Journal explained that Barbie’s 126th career was computer engineer, due in part to online voting campaigns led by members of SWE and other STEM organizations.