The first step starts at the very bottom of our educational system. We need to increase math and science education across the board, not just for girls but for boys as well. Our technology industries depend heavily on having a pool of talented, educated individuals. In the past few decades, math and especially science education has suffered tremendously-- this trend needs to be reversed.
When we do this, we need to encourage girls to study these topics and excel in them. Too often girls are tracked into softer sciences, or into vocational educational paths. This gender stereotyping does a tremendous disservice to the student, but also to our economy.
Engineers need to be more visible in our culture, so as to provider role models for students. (handwaving here... I can't remember what I said.)
More than most industries, engineering tends to be truly a meritocracy. It's much easier for women to achieve salary parity in science and engineering than in many other careers. While our society definitely needs to address the larger issue of salary discrimination, the current state of the industry can certainly serve as a draw for young women. Why fight a glass ceiling in the business world when it's already been broken in technical fields.
And for me, the final step is to eliminate ridiculous institutions like womens' engineering societies. The mere existence of such an organization suggests that there is a difference between male and female engineers. We know that this is patently false, and yet the mere existence of womens' engineering societies suggests that female engineers are somehow in need of special protection or organization.
If I were a young woman considering a technical career, womens' engineering societies would cause me to be suspicious. Why do female engineers feel like they need a girls' club? Are they treated like freaks? Do they need these clubs as a refuge from the big bad boys in the industry? We know that workers unionize when they need to fight an establishment. Is there a de facto boys' clubs in the technology industry that women need to fight? A womens' engineering society might serve as a false warning to future engineers, and cause them to choose an industry where they will be respected.
To recruit female engineers, we need to start at the bottom of the educational system and work our way up. We need to make young girls aware that engineering is a viable alternative. Most importantly, we need to stop sending the message that female engineers are disadvantaged. I believe that womens' engineering societies have far outlived their usefulness, and I encourage you to disband the girls' club and assimilate into the larger industry, rather than trying to distance yourselves from it.
This is truly one of the strangest dreams I've ever had. I have no idea where it came from, but I basically agree with all of it. I've always hated those organizations, simply because I don't think that being a female technical professional is different in any way from being a male technical professional. And it really was a great speech-- I wish I'd written this right after I woke up, so that I could have remembered more specifics.