Siemens hosted more than 130 girls in grades 5-12 and their parents at the Siemens West Chicago plant on Friday, March 13 for the 11th annual “Introduce a Girl to Engineering,” an evening where young women conduct design experiments, tour the factory and learn about careers in STEM and the manufacturing industry.
“I like to work with my dad building things and helping around the house,” said Emily Carter, 13, an event participant and student at Belvedere Central Middle School. “But there are not many classes at school. It’s cool to be here and learn how engineering works.”
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.
Just 12 percent of all employed American engineers are women, according to the National Science Foundation. “Girls are underrepresented in this field and we want to inspire them and show them what’s possible,” said Jayne Beck, manager of motor control center engineering. Beck, who has nearly 40 years of engineering experience, introduced the program at the Siemens West Chicago plant in 2005. Of the plant’s approximately 75 engineers, about 10 percent are women, but “there’s no reason that can’t be an even, 50/50 split,” said Beck.
Crystal Cristeseu, a Siemens electrical engineer and 31-year old mother of three who helped managed the evening, agreed. “This is my heart and passion. I didn’t have the exposure like this when I was young and I am glad I can offer it to help these girls build their confidence.”
Introduce a Girl proves very popular. The limited spots filled three weeks after invitations were sent and a waiting list quickly grew to more than 100 girls. About 65 employees volunteered to support the event.
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. Orders have increased recently, empowering 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.