However, in many cases, the schools request that we talk to mixed-gender groups, as the boys need educating on equality issues as much as the girls. At the younger grades, elementary to lower Junior High, the talk is on a rather general level about science and scientists, engineering and engineers, illustrated by some hands-on demonstrations.
At the grade nine to ten level the focus is on what high school subjects students should select in order to qualify for entry into science and engineering. A particular message at this level is the importance of taking physics 200 and 300, which are required for entry into all engineering and physical science fields. At the present time, only about 30% of the students choosing physics 300 are girls. When talking to grades eleven and twelve, students in classes are advised about careers in science or engineering, and on what they might expect once they enter these fields at university.
We feel that this program has, over a short period of time, developed considerable momentum and is generally well received by the schools and by the students who have participated in the sessions. It is still too early to tell whether any increased enrollment by women in science or engineering will result, but the Engineering admissions officer does report an increased number of enquiries by women about studies in that faculty.
Yes, we've come a long way from the middle ages, but we have a long way to go before 50% of science students, faculty, professional scientists, and engineers are women.
Barbara Sherriff is an Assistant Professor in Geological Science, and J.P. Svenne is a professor in the Department of Physics and is Associate Dean of Science, both at The University of Manitoba.