Math Options began at Penn State’s Abington (Philadelphia) Campus in 1991 under the corporate sponsorship of Bell of Pennsylvania in consultation with the Philadelphia Chapter of Women and Mathematics. The program has expanded across the state to many other Penn State locations and now serves more than 1,500 girls annually.
The goal of Math Options is important, as it addresses a problem recognized by a growing number of educators and mentors: young girls need role models and encouragement if they are to pursue math-related careers. Even girls who do well in math often choose not to pursue studies and careers in math and science, partly because of the stereotypes about femininity and math in our society and lack of support.
The statistics are sobering: only 16 percent of scientists, 6 percent of engineers, and 4 percent of computer scientists in the United States are women. Nearly 70 percent of tomorrow’s jobs will require use of computers, yet fewer than 33 percent of participants in computer courses and related activities are women. Our nation stands on the brink of a serious knowledge and skill shortage–partially because we currently under-educate half of our future leaders.