It’s a well-paying career that involves solving complex problems and perhaps helping the world. So why aren’t more women doing it?
Armed with a Congressional committee’s statistic that just 14 percent of engineers in the workforce are female, Natalie Gold is determined to answer that question — and maybe even boost that figure in the process.
Gold, a 10th-grade student at Santa Monica High School, is aiming to educate young girls about engineering for her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
She researched a wide variety of employment avenues in engineering, interviewed women in the field and created a website — EngineeringEinSTEAM.weebly.com — to organize her findings on her path towards receiving the highest honor in the Girl Scouts organization.
“I wanted to get more girls into engineering,” she said. “Women can make a difference. It’s too much of a man’s world, and women can impact the world just as much. It’s not OK that not enough women know about engineering. More girls my age and below might want to get into it.”
Gold is now busy focusing on outreach, which is embedded in the goal of her project. On May 18 she’ll host a pizza workshop at Samohi featuring members of the UCLA Society of Women Engineers as well as a NASA engineer who worked on the Mars rover. On May 21 she’ll participate in the Archer STEM Symposium, an annual showcase of area high school students’ work in science, technology, engineering and math. She’ll submit her final Gold Award report by May 26.
Gold also hopes to take part in the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles annual Gold Award ceremony in 2016, which marks the 100th anniversary of the achievement’s creation.
Gold had something of a head start in engineering. Her mother, Lisette, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry and a doctorate at UCLA before working as an environmental engineer with the City of Santa Monica.
“I wanted to learn more about it,” Gold said. “I had no idea what a chemical engineer or biomedical engineer actually does.”
Starting in February, after getting approval by the local and regional Girl Scout boards, Gold compiled summaries of 20 different careers in engineering and talked to 23 women from across the country about their experiences in the male-dominated industry.
One of the spotlighted professionals is Jessica Arden, a City of Santa Monica water resources engineer who works with Gold’s mother. Arden, who attended Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, is also serving as Gold’s project advisor.
“Natalie is extraordinary in so many ways, but I think her desire to improve things and help people is the most impressive,” Arden said. “That will be what takes her to great heights. Her ability to understand a problem and work hard to solve it, to imagine something better, to make an attempt to achieve it — that’s engineering.”
It seems Gold’s journey in the field has already begun. This year at Samohi she founded a coding club through which she and other students learn about computer software and website design with the help of UCLA volunteers.
She also has experience in aquatic engineering — she’s a member of the Vikings varsity swimming team.
But Gold, who is interested in a possible career in biomedical engineering, wants to make an even bigger splash away from the pool.
“When there is a guy being sexist about how guys are better, I’ll stand up and say, ‘Girls are equal — we’re just as smart,'” she said. “I hope to inspire more girls my age and below in thinking about going into engineering.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.