Engineer Your Life

Nathan  Kahl Posted on November 22, 2010 by Nathan Kahl

Engineer Your Life was the first project to put Changing the Conversation’s recommendations into practice by focusing on a particularly troubling demographic—girls. When it comes to girls and engineering, there is a sad legacy to overcome; one that virtually excluded girls until relatively recently.

Changing Girls’ Image of Engineering

Since the project was conceived in 2004, the primary goal of EYL has remained unchanged—to break down stereotypes about engineering and encourage girls to consider it as a career option. Over the ensuing years, we have:

  • developed a coalition of 107 members who are using the EYL messaging in their programming;
  • launched a web site (;
  • hosted 70 college fairs reaching 50,000 students;
  • trained thousands of engineers and educators on how to talk to girls about engineering; and,
  • developed a robust social networking strategy. 


Dramatic Results

EYL has changed girls’ minds. According to an independent evaluation: 

  • 88% of girls familiar with EYL said it made them more interested in engineering as a career.
  • Students who were familiar with EYL were significantly more likely to believe that imagination and creativity, good people skills, good writing skills, and good public speaking skills were important to engineering than those students who were unfamiliar with EYL.
  • Girls also indicated that EYL inspired them to take an engineering class in college (75.5%).
  • 88% of engineers surveyed reported that the EYL web site made them more comfortable when it came to helping to prepare high school girls for becoming engineers. 

Despite these positive findings and students’ growing interest in engineering, there are still significant barriers to women entering the field of engineering: 1) boys are still more likely to be encouraged to pursue engineering than girls, 2) a significant number of high schools do not offer engineering programs, 3) many students still do not have an accurate understanding of what engineering is, and 4) engineering is still perceived by some to be a male-dominated profession.

Expanding the Impact

We’ve made a good start. But the years of neglecting women in engineering can’t be undone overnight. We must continue to work to change the perception of engineering from a mysterious, nerdy enterprise to a cool, interesting career (the key goal of Engineer Your Life).

To broaden the reach and impact of EYL, the coalition is actively fundraising for a second phase:

  • EYL will revamp the website, which is now three years old—a lifetime in websites aimed at teenagers. The revised website will also serve as a dynamic online destination where engineers and educators can share effective communication strategies.
  • EYL will produce free customizable graphic art, photos, and text resources so that partners can create their own materials based on EYL.
  • EYL will expand its online, social networking, and print promotion strategy, targeting girls, parents, engineers, and high school teachers.
  • EYL will increase the number of messaging workshops it conducts at national conferences.
  • EYL and partners at WEPAN and CU, Boulder will create six model recruitment programs for universities and colleges. These model programs will not only redesign the engineering recruitment materials, but will share the results with the entire EYL community, serving as both inspiration and a “how-to” for all interested parties.

For more information contact:

Kitty Didion
Senior Program Officer
National Academy of Engineering

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