November's 'Penn College & You' to Explore Women in Technology

Published 10.18.2004


Encouraging high-school and middle-school girls to participate in science and math activities is the subject of the November episode of Pennsylvania College of Technology's public affairs TV series "Penn College & You," which will examine the low proportion of women in science and technical careers.

"Three of the five occupations projected to grow the fastest in the next 10 years are nontraditional for women," Veronica M. Muzic, vice president for academic affairs/provost at Penn College, notes in the new episode.

According to an article in The Washington Times, about 85 percent of students in college engineering programs nationwide are male, as are two out of three physics majors. In the past decade, the number of male computer majors in college rose from 65 percent to 75 percent.

Muzic and a select group of Penn College faculty decided to be proactive in addressing the situation and, in 2001, SMART Girls Science and Math Applications in Real World Technologies for Girls was born.

In the latest installment of "Penn College & You," which is in its 10th season, host Tom Speicher, along with Muzic, Penn College faculty and teen participants of SMART Girls, will explore the need for women in science and technology and the reasons for their absence in those fields.

The award-winning program extends the expertise of faculty and staff at Penn College, a special-mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University, to viewers nationwide.

In the Williamsport area, the series airs Tuesday and Sunday at 7 p.m. on SusCom Channel 2. It is broadcast nationwide to all DISH Network subscribers on Universityhouse Channel 9411 on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Other Pennsylvania cable systems airing the show this season are: Altoona, Danville, Erie, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Lehighton, Lewisburg, Mansfield/Wellsboro, Milton, Reading, Watsontown, Wilkes-Barre and York.

Muzic says the middle-school and early high-school years are a pivotal time for girls to continue developing their interest in math and science and to take courses that will keep high-tech careers open to them.

According to the national organization Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, by the eighth grade, twice as many boys as girls show an interest in science, engineering and mathematics careers. In addition, a study by the National Council on Research for Women reveals that young women exhibit less confidence in their math skills than young men.

Victoria A. Ristenbatt, who studied biology at Penn College and is continuing her education at a liberal-arts college, says: "I was told boys were math and science; girls were English. I accepted it. It's not that I believed it, but I accepted it because math was hard. And I was told math's for boys. (I thought) 'Well, fine, because then I don't have to do math.' Now that I'm in college, I love mathematics, and I think girls need early on to find that love for math and science.

By providing a one-day camp for seventh- and eighth-grade girls and a four-day residential summer camp for ninth- and 10th-grade girls, the SMART Girls program gives young teens the chance to discover whether they indeed may love a career that involves math and science. During the sessions, students receive hands-on experience in fields ranging from plumbing and computer maintenance, to forensics and environmental science.

For more information about the SMART Girls program at Penn College, visit online .