Today is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day! And, appropriately, today it was announced that Frances E. Allen has become the first woman ever has won the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery.
Unfortunately, I don't have any girls handy to do introduce to my profession of "systems engineer". Anyone have one I can borrow? I'd love to, really. I love encouraging girls in science and technology, mostly to not make them afraid of it. If they can get over the fear of it, whether they're passionate about it or not is a personality and interests thing. I really believe that societal and peer pressures as well as they way they're taught grow girls into thinking that they can't do science, technology, math, etc. Normally unspoken attitudes like the one expressed by the former president of Harvard are prevalent, and they make me mad. Girls and women CAN "do computers" or science or math. If the topics are explained in such a way that the subjects are both understandable AND relevant to girls, absent of underlying assumptions and prejudices, they really enjoy the subject. I could go on a long time about the way computer science & other science & math is taught, childhood 'roles' that discourage girls, and other things, but I'll stop. For now. (Earlier, I discussed how I was first exposed to programming)
One of the best events I've been to that touches on this subject was last year's Indiana Women in Computing conference. We were able to do everything from seeing research other female college students (mostly grad students) were doing in a variety of areas to making jewelry, all with other geeky girls like myself. It was awesome.
At the conference, I learned that IU has an excellent outreach program locally. Google is encouraging girls in engineering today. I LOVE the Girl Scouts ad campaign, which I've seen on billboards & in malls. Gender-neutral campaigns include DiscoverEngineering.org and TryScience.org
That said, I think it's really important to NOT be on the computer all the time. I discussed this before. Even Bill Gates says his kids have limits on their computer time. I think that's very healthy- for kids and adults. Getting out and doing REAL things, AWAY from a screen, with your hands, or with people, or with nature, is more valuable.