Participants of the 2013 Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day gather at Argonne National Laboratory with Director Dot Harris.


Did you know that while women comprise 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 24 percent of STEM jobs? STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is critical for the mission of the Energy Department in securing our clean energy future - and it's critical for the country.

When I am on travel, I often speak for the White House Council on Women and Girls' STEM Speakers Bureau about this participation gap. I address groups around the country to engage young women and girls in conversations about STEM careers and show them that there are women in STEM who have exciting jobs in the federal government.

Last week, I joined the staff of Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois, to speak at the annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. This event, which has been expanding the last several years due to popular demand, gives girls in the Chicago area a chance to learn about engineering careers, participate in engineering projects, and think about what an engineering future would look like for them.

The day included mentor pairing for the 90 participants, tours of the facility, a presentation about career options in science and engineering, an engineering expo, hands-on activities, and a team car building competition  to demonstrate an engineering experience around speed and torque.

The participation gap in STEM fields is especially low when it comes to engineering. Women make up only 7 percent of the nation's mechanical engineers, 10 percent of civil engineers, and 20 percent of computer software engineers.

Engineering careers offer endless opportunities, involve complex and intricate work, and make a big impact on our work at the Energy Department. For example, electrical engineers at the Bonneville Power Administration design replacements, repairs, and new instillations for a wide range of power system protection, control, and communication systems for high-voltage power transmission systems. Nuclear engineers at our Germantown, Maryland office conduct assessments, inspections, and technical analysis at the Energy Department's nuclear facilities and laboratories and maintain operational safety. General engineers at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in New Orleans, Louisiana, manage engineering projects, design reviews, technical oversight, and much more for the Reserve's facilities.

I hope that many of the young women I met in Chicago last week will join our work and the next generation of engineers.

Visit this page to see more photos from the event, and to learn more about Argonne's work: