A lecture hall full of middle- and high-school girls listened Thursday as a Girls Preparatory School graduate said she's among the 11 percent of women in the nation with careers in engineering, one of the fastest-growing and highest-paid fields in the country.
"Engineers can take all sorts of forms," 24-year-old Priya Boyington told students at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. "You can do it no matter what you look like or where you come from."
Boyington, daughter of Dane and Sheila Boyington, both engineers, graduated from Georgia Tech and landed a job as an industrial engineer at the American global management consulting firm Bain & Co.
Bain was one of six job offers she had after graduation.
Six job offers, repeated an adult sitting in the audience.
Dr. Elaine Swafford, director of Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, said she hopes Boyington's success inspires other girls to reach for the same goals.
"I want this to be a motivator to say there is somebody who looks like me that is in this field," said Swafford.
Boyington said she believes more girls would become engineers and have the same opportunities if they could see more women are in the field.
As children, many little girls are handed Barbie dolls, she said, but what if they also were offered toys that encouraged them to build things?
After working at Bain, Boyington took six months' leave of absence to become one of only 13 employees of GoldieBlox, a company started by a female engineer that makes toys targeting girls ages 4 and 5. The toys are designed to get girls interested in engineering.
Boyington showed the girls a video narrated by GoldieBlox founder and engineer Debbie Sterling. Then she told the girls that they could also be engineers if they took math and science classes.
The classes can be difficult, but the reward, if you stick with it, is that you are the person in demand, Boyinton said.
Amiya Farris, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at the Girls Leadership Academy, said she wants to be a cosmetologist. But after hearing the presentation, she's now also considering being an engineer. "This is the first time I've heard of GoldieBlox. Maybe that's something I want to do when I'm older."
To take the job at GoldieBlox, Boyington turned down an offer to work for Estee Lauder.
The Estee Lauder job paid more money, she said. But building toys to change young girls' lives sounded more appealing than selling a woman a $300 jar of face cream, she said.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-6431.