Women Pass On High-Pay Jobs

Lindsey Potter, Joie Chen, Evening news

Even in today's battered economy, more women are employed than ever before. But CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen finds girls are giving up the chance to make it in some of the most lucrative jobs.

She's just 16 — a typical camp counselor who loves kids.

Lindsey Potter is also an exceptional student, who's already taken advanced engineering and physics, along with college level computer and math.

And she says she got all A's in those classes.

This summer, like so many college bound seniors, she's agonizing over her future.

Chen asked Potter what job should would be if she had to decide now.

Potter replied probably something with nursing.

A noble choice in a nation that badly needs more good nurses.

But it's a choice that worries educators and employers who are anxious to get more young women like Lindsey into the high tech workforce.

"In advanced areas, particularly in science and technology, we don't see women advancing," says Elena Silva of the American Association of University Women.

Silva authored a new report on women at work.

It found that while more women now graduate from college than men, a disproportionate number of them wind up avoiding the very jobs that have defined America's global edge in new technologies.

"For women with education, with their bachelor's degree or more, we are seeing the most common jobs to be teaching and registered nurses," says Silva.

In less than one generation, Silva's study found the number of women earning degrees — in key areas like computer science, engineering and information technology 'declined' by eleven percent.

Silva says this is "a real problem since those are the fastest growing careers with the higher than average wages."

Even with the economic downturn the likely "hot jobs" of the coming decades are in engineering and high tech.

Sheila Heinze is CEO of a $15 million-a-year computer consulting business.

"We're very open and constantly looking for women because I think they add a different dimension to problem solving," says Sheila Heinze, CEO of S.M. Consulting.

Heinze says women are missing out. But she warns the U.S. high tech industry is also being hurt.

"We're competing in a global market place and we are doing it with, in some way, half the brain power of the United States," says Heinze.

A lesson clearly understood by Sharlyn Tabernero, who's combining biochemistry with a second major -- in computer science.

"Technology is growing and it's gonna keep on going," says Tabernero, a college student. "So it's the place you wanna be."

It's the kind of advice Lindsey Potter is hearing a lot these days.

She hasn't decided whether or not to take it.

"I change my mind constantly," Potter says.