When it comes to women working in traditionally male-dominated fields, strides have been made in areas such as business, law and medicine; however, there is still work to be done in engineering.

According to the National Science Foundation, the number of women earning engineering degrees has grown in the last 20 years; however, the number pales in comparison to the number of men in the field. Women make up only about 15% of practicing engineers.

This is troubling considering the efforts made by many, including those in the oil and gas industry, to reverse the trend by encouraging females—at times starting with elementary school-aged girls— to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Citing data from the National Science Board, the Society of Women Engineers said the percentage of males who say they intend to pursue a degree in a STEM subject is more than three times the percentage of females who say they will pursue majors in these fields. Of the female freshmen who indicated intentions to get an engineering degree in 2007, for example, only about 60% of them earned an engineering degree.

So clearly, there is still work to be done to increase the number of women engineers, especially considering the need to replace retiring engineers. Thankfully, the goal is still on the agenda for many, including ExxonMobil Corp.

The Irving, Texas-based company recently held its “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” program in hopes of getting middle-school-aged girls to pursue careers in engineering by experiencing “the excitement of being an engineer.” As explained in a news release, employees of ExxonMobil and XTO Energy facilities guided students through hands-on activities involving processes such as water purification and household products manufacturing.

Middle school students in Irving were challenged to find out how to use file folders to build a rollercoaster, and then, get a marble to roll down slowly. The daylong workshop was featured during a February broadcast by Dallas/Fort Worth’s CBS 11 News.

“It’s critical that students can appreciate at an early age the contributions they can make toward advancing next-generation technologies and enhancing quality of life,” Ben Soraci, ExxonMobil’s general manager of public and government affairs, said in a news release. “ExxonMobil’s participation in the Introduce a Girl to Engineering program is one way we can help inspire girls and highlight the exciting opportunities available to them if they choose to pursue this rewarding profession.”

Data from the National Science Foundation’s “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017” report showed that women have earned 57% of all bachelor’s degrees since the late 1990s, but half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees.

Velda Addison can be reached at vaddison@hartenergy.com or via Twitter @VeldaAddison.