By Sarah Freishtat
Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.
Natasha Davis is an engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation, and doesn’t often see other women on the job.
Davis, who lives in Anderson, comes from a family of carpenters.
“Even in my family, it was like, ‘This is something guys do,'” Davis said.
Now, Davis is a counselor at a new summer camp at Clemson designed to build interest among girls in science, technology, engineering and math.
Girls often don’t consider engineering fields, but they can lead to high-paying jobs, said camp director Serita Acker.
“It is to make girls feel more confident in math,” Acker said. “All our lives, we’ve heard math is hard.”
Acker, who also leads Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering organization, said math is required for many careers. Women should have a say in developing the products and research they use, she said.
But, she said, engineering, construction and architecture jobs are dominated by men.
Acker said she partners with Girl Scouts and runs middle- and high-school camps to try to encourage girls of every age to consider studying science, technology, engineering and math — STEM fields.
Women made up 20 percent of the 4,244 students studying science and engineering at Clemson in 2011.
Nationwide, they earned 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields and almost 23 percent of master’s degrees in STEM fields, according to Acker’s research.
Yet, she said, South Carolina’s need for chemical engineers is more than twice the national average.
The state’s need for computer-controlled machine operators, mechanical engineers and other types of engineers is almost twice the national average, according to Acker’s research.
“These majors can lead to good jobs,” Acker said.
The Oconee County school district runs a program similar to Clemson’s camp to introduce girls entering eighth and ninth grade to welding and manufacturing.