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Germany

Girls Just Wanna Have -- Technical Careers?

May 8 is Girls' Day in Germany -- a chance for some 100,000 girls aged 11 to 16 to take a close look into the world of work, and especially at careers they might not normally consider.

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Schoolgirls in Munich learn about digital imaging during a Girls' Day visit to Microsoft.

The annual event -- a cooperation between the German government and more than 3,500 companies, research institutes, colleges and government offices -- is taking place this year for the third time.

While today's girls and women sometimes have a better education than their male peers, they are still underrepresented in training and employment in technical, scientific and skilled-trade jobs. Girls' Day is the government's attempt at balancing the scales. It aims to increase job opportunities for girls -- especially in the technical branch -- by opening their awareness to typically male-dominated fields.

German Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn said the aim of the exercise is to awake girls' curiosity about scientific and technical subjects, and hopefully send them more frequently into these careers. Based on available data, she notes, a change in the current trend seems unlikely without help.

'Typically female' jobs

"Girls' Day should present future-oriented fields to girls, careers they may not be interested in at first glance," Bulmahn said. "Girls still disproportionately choose 'typically female' study and work areas. More than 70 percent of them choose one of the ten most popular service careers -- for example, retail sales, doctors' assistant, or hairdresser. ... Yet in technical study disciplines, fewer than 20 percent of the matriculated students are women."

Bulmahn said almost half of the Girls' Day participants last year expressed an interest in doing an internship or job training in the branch that they visited.

Interest from business

The business community has also begun to realize it could benefit from tapping into girls' potential. Alexander Gunkel represents the German Employers Association, which is heavily involved in organizing Girls' Day.

"The German economy needs to court more women and girls in the working world, especially where they have been underrepresented. We can ill afford to waste what resources we have in terms of young blood," Gunkel said.

Some Girls' Day participants spent the day visiting a biotech laboratory, while others watched robots being built. And for the first time, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also took part in in the event, inviting thirty Berlin schoolgirls to visit the Chancellor's office to show them what sort of job possibilities await them there.

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