Girls who plan a career only "to fall back on" will get their wish. They will fall back.
Local organizers of "Expanding Your Horizons," a seminar held Tuesday for Utah County junior and senior high school girls, hope to save the next generation from "pink-collar ghettos" - low-paying fields that traditionally employ females."We want to encourage women to enter non-traditional career fields, such as those using math, science and technology," Kim Groscost, chairwoman, said. "Why? The reason is simple. Money."
A person who graduates with an engineering degree can earn 11/2 to two times as much on a first job as one who graduates as a teacher, she said.
"A teacher may earn $13,000; an engineer might get $30,000. We want girls to know they have choices," Groscost said.
About 425 girls attended the conference at Utah Valley Community College; 200 were turned away once seminars were filled. The event was sponsored by the Utah Math/Science Network and included speakers from several state colleges and from industry.
Girls heard from women who work in forestry, business, chemistry, computer science, engineering and technology, food science, medicine, law and the military, among other fields.
"Too many girls and women rely on the mattress theory - that a career is just something to fall back on," Groscost said. "A study found that about 90 percent of women will work at paid employment for an average of 27 years. One of each three women over 60 lives in poverty."
Relying on a man to be the sole breadwinner can be risky, she said.
"About 10 percent of women never marry, 10 percent of those who marry will be widowed by age 50, the divorce rate is nearly 50 percent, and even in cases where families stay together, things can happen that affect the man's paycheck. Examples are when Geneva and Kennecott closed."
Groscost said that for every $1 a man earns, a woman earns 59 cents.
"A large part of the reason is that women don't enter high-paying fields."
Many women who don't plan careers end up as waitresses, clerks and secretaries.
"This conference doesn't purport being a stay-at-home mother is less, it promotes being ready for anything," said Dyann Smoot, another organizer. "We don't want to put down mothers, we just know women need as many options as men do in today's world."
Most of the girls interviewed had not chosen a career, but enjoyed the conference.
"It's been fun," said Julie Nielsen, 12, Provo. "But I still don't like math very well."
Liz Schnelter, 13, Provo, said the conference had made her feel like she could have a family and a career. She wants to have four children and to be a veterinarian.
Lorinda Clifner, a Brigham Young University chemistry student who helped girls with a lab experiment, said most had not yet thought about a career.
"We are just hoping to expose them to new things and boost their self-esteem in math and science areas. We are planting a seed for the future."