ICYMI: Friend magazine encourages girls to be engineers

I hope each of you takes a moment to look at the February 2016 Friend magazine, which includes an article encouraging girls’ interests in engineering. The spread on pp. 34-36 includes the title “Savannah the Engineer” and a picture of a girl (possibly Latina?) driving a blueprint car:


The article opens with the scripture “Every good gift cometh of Christ” (Moroni 10:18), and tells the story of a young girl who joins her school’s battery-operated car building club (alternative energy, so hip!). Along the way, she faces skepticism from peers and self-doubt, but uses her Mormon peer pressure resistance toolkit to cast off the nay-sayers and continue in her passion.

The accompanying activity on the next page is perhaps even more interesting. It shows male and female silhouettes, and encourages children to check boxes indicating the things they can do or are interested in. There are gender-exclusive boxes immediately under the respective gender silhouettes (e.g., “I am a son” and “I am a sister”), but also a shared area clearly identifying some activities and interests as applicable to any gender:


The common area spans both gender columns, but the interests are clearly scattered in a way to avoid suggesting that some fit under traditional gender stereotypes. For example, “I like math” and “I like science” are far to the left, under the female silhouette.

While still adhering to current church policy and doctrine of gender binary and male-only priesthood ordination, this is encouragingly, dare I say, “politically correct”! With women earning 57% of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States, but only 19% of the engineering degrees, I’m absolutely delighted to see the Friend encouraging more girls to enter this rewarding and in-demand career. A flood of Mormon girls and women entering the field of engineering would go a long way towards closing Utah’s gender pay gap, one of the largest of the United States.

I encourage you to share the engineering article with girls AND boys in your life (after all, the boys need to know that girls can be engineers just as much as the girls need to know that boys can be engineers), in FHE, visiting or home teaching visits, or primary classes. While you’re at it, take a look at my lesson plans for teaching Activity Days and Young Women to do computer programming in Javascript, or my craft activity to spell your name in binary using beads on a necklace (good for all ages).


  1. Yeah! And consider really good engineering schools outside Utah too! (University of Alaska Fairbanks has a great engineering program with a great support system for women in the program, through graduate school.)

  2. Or good ones inside Utah. Go Aggies!

  3. Go Friend magazine!!

  4. My budding engineer and I were so happy to see this in The Friend!

  5. whizzbang says:

    My LDS sister is a mechanical Engineer, she got her degree maybe 10 years ago now, she worked in the industry until she paid back her student loans, got married and had her 3 boys. Now she is a stay at home Mom but she pays her dues to the organization so she won’t lose her training or something, i’m not sure how it works but basically she can go back to work anytime she wants. She put up with a lot of guff from her male classmates, a lot.

  6. HokieKate says:

    Awesome awesome awesome!

  7. I love this. I hope that the Church will also do more–and quickly–to recognize the talents and contributions of professional adult women, to make us feel more included and valued–that we fit whether or not we have a spouse and children. It is great to encourage girls to develop their skills (I’m all for this!). But that needs to be valued in adult LDS women too. It is more than for “being a good mom.”

  8. Amen Pokemom.

  9. yes!

  10. alleluia! About time. My husband and I both have engineering degrees, son intending to study Chem Eng from October, and daughter aiming to study Aerospace Eng in a couple of years.

  11. So worthy of celebration, Cynthia!

  12. catrachohansen says:

    There is a lot to celebrate here! I love that they didn’t use pink and blue for the silhouettes of the girl and boy. I am trying hard to help my daughter find interests in science and math, and this article seems like a helpful way to contribute to that.

  13. You know, this really would make a great activity days activity. Read the story, then print out the Celebrating You page and have the girls fill it out, then talk about their dreams and invite any stories where they felt like they couldn’t do something, and then talk about ways they could change their circumstances like this young girl did so they could do it. I bet every woman can think of a time they were told they couldn’t do something (mine: “you can’t read Encyclopedia Brown books, those are boy books!”) and these stories can open up dialogue in important ways. So empowering!

  14. The church has always encouraged women and girls to achieve in all aspects of their life. Early pioneer women often had university educations and filled important roles in the LDS communities. This is nothing new and the so-called gender wage gap in Utah probably has more to do with the higher proportion of women who choose to be home with their children.

  15. Bravo! So glad to see this in a church magazine!

  16. This is fantastic! I’ve been on the fence as to whether I would get my daughters a subscription to The Friend, and this may have convinced me. But I’ll still be proofreading each issue to ensure no wacky modesty articles like these are present:

    Hannah’s New Dress: http://media.ldscdn.org/pdf/lds-magazines/friend-june-2011/2011-06-19-hannahs-new-dress-eng.pdf

    The Orange Shirt: http://media.ldscdn.org/pdf/magazines/friend-may-2013/2013-05-29-the-orange-shirt-eng.pdf

    Also Jeagar, my lived experience must be different than yours. Education and achievement was certainly encouraged – until married. Then the encouragement was gone, and was replaced by “but don’t you want a family?” when I decided to go on and get an advanced degree and start a career. So I don’t think the church has ALWAYS encouraged women to achieve in ALL aspects of their lives, during their childbearing years in particular. You are correct, though. Attitudes about women fulfilling important roles in their communities were more positive for our Utah pioneer ancestors, and women’s roles have since evolved to a more 1950s all-or-nothing, SAHM vs. man-wannabe feminazi career woman approach. I exaggerate of course, but the evolution of this change is interesting to learn about. And I’m seeing some positive changes in these attitudes in the last 10 years that are an improvement over what I experienced as a youth in the 90s and early 2000s. This Friend article would never have printed when I was an adolescent but today feels right at place, so I’m hopeful.

  17. The Savannah article is not so much about a girl being on an engineering team as about a girl bucking peer pressure, learning to make her own decisions, and turning to God. The article reinforces the idea that girls go shopping to build friendships and that many girls think science is boring (yuck). By my count, 463 of 595 words are about her decision to join the team. 132 of 595 words are about the experience of being on the team. Savannah’s science is only a background. I’m hoping for an article about a girl facing science questions such as “After hours of research, Savannah asked God to help her know what shape would be the most aerodynamic. She and the other team members worked together to come up with a practical design.” I’d like to see Savannah’s decision and experience be treated as normal.
    Lots of girls, including me, start out with positive goals for STEM but don’t carry them through.

%d bloggers like this: