In today's economy, it is easy to convince someone to become an engineer just by telling them that they will find a stable job and make a good income. However, this argument does not work for everyone, particularly women. Most women are not motivated by their paycheck, but rather by their accomplishments and the people they help along the way. Women are much more likely to choose careers in which they are directly helping people, such as nursing, teaching, and social work. While these are good and important careers, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are missing out on the talents of women and their motivation to help people.
I've organized and participated in many nuclear science and STEM outreach events to young students, including female-only events such as "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" and Girls Scouts nuclear science badge events. In our career presentations we always make the point of the stable and high-paying jobs that the STEM fields can provide, but we miss making the connection to the huge humanitarian and social impact that an engineer or scientist can make.
One of my friends recently told me a story of a brother and a sister who wanted the same goal of impacting the world in a positive way. The sister was concerned about the impact of oil drilling on the environment and studied policy in college and then worked for a think tank trying to change the policies for oil drilling. She worked hard but was only mildly successful. Her brother, on the other hand, studied engineering in college and ended up working for an oil company where he developed a tool that allowed oil to be more efficiently extracted with less environmental impact. Inadvertently, he had a much bigger influence on the very problems his sister was trying to solve with policy. His sister could have easily also used her talents and motivation to solve environmental problems technically instead of with policy.
This story is a perfect example of how women do not realize that they can impact people's lives in a positive way with a technical degree and job. This is probably due to the fact that the creators of a technology do not usually experience the impact of their technology on people's lives as you do in a career where are are directly working with the customer, such as in nursing. But the problems that engineers solve and the things that they create help people everyday. Bridges, planes, medicine, computers, electricity all improve people's lives. But the connection between the actual people (not company) that made the technology and the users of the technology is missing, which is why women don't realize how much they can help humanity in the STEM fields.
I chose to be a nuclear engineer because I wanted to impact the world in a positive way by solving our energy needs. Why did you chose your current career?