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being the only girl in class

I was listening to an interview with Michael Che from SNL and he was asked about why he wanted to study performing arts in high school. Without missing a beat he said there was usually a 6:1 girl-to-guy ratio in those classes so why not! Great funny answer - but it got me thinking, because I'm often asked to explain what got me into engineering and oh man if a WOMAN ever admitted to wanting to hang out with guys, meet guys, especially a woman who was a nerd that never had a boyfriend in high school, it would not be funny. We've all heard those horror stories of women who "go to college to earn an MRS degree" - ie, meet a husband who brings in money. It is so not cool. Women are also not supposed to admit that we'd choose a career for money because again, golddiggers going for bank. Evil evil evil! Is there a tiny double standard here or is it just me?

Someone at geek girl con asked if women get competitive with each other because we're competing for men and the panelists kinda laughed at that because, the explained, in seattle the ratio is such that women are not competing for men. Same with Wichita. In fact your first day of engineering school you realize you are not going to ever be competing for men. Your odds are good (even if, as the saying goes, some of the goods are odd). So you quickly forget and erase from your memory that you MIGHT have signed up for these classes in order to maybe finally get a boyfriend. We shall never speak of this again.

I jokingly tell people that I was a "geek groupie" in high school. My family didn't have the internet, parents didn't believe in video games, I was not on BBS like my first crush and did not learn BASIC in the second grade like my crush. I was intimidated by those guys. My senior year though I wondered... did I want them? Or did I want to be them? I also adored the logic of the STEM world, was good at physics, wondered if there was a place for me.

I have been totally unable to relate to women who started engineering in school then left because they didn't like being the only woman in class. To me that was a draw. I'm still trying to reach into that thinking. I value being different. I'm feminist. I grew up with my mother taking college classes because she'd once been told that college wasn't necessary for girls, and she wanted to fight that. I think it made me want to fight something too.

So I can't pretend I went into engineering just because I liked physics, it's not honest, and we can't help others unless we're totally honest with ourselves first, right?

13 years in I am definitely tired of being the only girl. Trust me it sucks. I am doing everything I can to find ways to get more women in this field. I am listing all the reasons, any possible reason, any draw, with hopes that something might change someday.

Posts from This Journal by “women engineers” Tag

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
aryanhwy
Nov. 25th, 2015 07:38 pm (UTC)
"because I'm often asked to explain what got me into engineering and oh man if a WOMAN ever admitted to wanting to hang out with guys, meet guys, especially a woman who was a nerd that never had a boyfriend in high school, it would not be funny."

Huh. I often comment on the fact that one of the plusses of studying logic as an undergrad was that I was the only girl in class of 10-12, PERFECT fodder for finding a partner! (I've been married to one of them for 11 years now. :) ), and I'm pretty much guaranteed to get a laugh when I do so.

Of course, it's not the only reason I went into the field, but when I compared my situation with that of other women in my year who were doing, say, ethics or feminist philosophy -- or worse, my fellow English majors, where the gender ratio was ~16 girls to ~4 guys -- and I certainly had some satisfaction.
ironphoenix
Nov. 25th, 2015 09:31 pm (UTC)
oh man if a WOMAN ever admitted to wanting to hang out with guys, meet guys, especially a woman who was a nerd that never had a boyfriend in high school, it would not be funny

This seems to tie into the popular myth that women can get all the sex they want, it's guys that have a hard time.

Is there a tiny double standard here or is it just me?

I don't think it's just you. Guys are supposed to get the money, then the power, then the women (thanks, Tony Montana); the women they get are, um, the bad kind. The good women are unicorn-petting virgins far above such base things as money.

Edited at 2015-11-25 09:32 pm (UTC)
dark_phoenix54
Nov. 26th, 2015 12:16 am (UTC)
In electronics and computer tech classes (my major) I was always the only girl. It was neither a draw nor a problem. It just *was*. I seriously didn't care who else was in the class.
fansee
Nov. 26th, 2015 01:24 am (UTC)
My own little STEM girl, Julie, just got herself a job at Upenn doing weekend care for lab animals. I am hoping one of the investigators will 'adopt' her. She needs the salary and the encouragement to continue with her undergraduate work. My fingers are crossed. FanSee
jume
Nov. 26th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC)
we got a very out-spoken and very feminine newbie recently, and it makes me smile to think about every time. It feels so nice.
litlebanana
Nov. 26th, 2015 12:27 pm (UTC)
As a high school math geek, I was One of only five girls in my honors math class of about 30 kids. I was one of only two girls on the math team. The other girl had no interest in being friends with me. At the time, I didn't mind, and actually liked it. These days, I much prefer to be around women… Which is good, because if you're in medicine, all the nurses and therapists are women.
metcodon1
Nov. 26th, 2015 03:41 pm (UTC)
I majored in chemical physics and then got my masters in applied physics. I was the only girl in my high school ap physics class, one of 2 girls in ap calculus, and one of 3 girls in ap chemistry. I haaaaated it. Obviously I was a total geek but all the guys were aggressively mean to me. They made weirdo sexual comments, specifically in my physics class where I was alone (the teacher heard and did nothing). I guess they probably thought girls liked that kind of thing or who the hell knows? (btw this was in the late 90s not the 70s and I am not exactly a retiring shy flower). Anyway, I could totally 100% see how a girl who was slightly less determined than me would quit under those circumstances...
binaryprecision
Nov. 30th, 2015 04:00 pm (UTC)
I was a bit tomboyish and by middle school did not get along with most other girls, so having boys as friends seemed fine. Then again I went to a magnet middle school and high school in the inner city so nothing about my social life was conventional. LOL By the time I got to college being one of "the boys" felt natural. I never dated my classmates: that was too close and I didn't want to ruin any friendships. I met my husband at our work study job and he just happened to be a comp sci major where we had no classes in common. /shrug
clevermanka
Nov. 30th, 2015 04:01 pm (UTC)
A double standard for women? GOOD HEAVENS, NO!
kirstene
Dec. 10th, 2015 02:24 pm (UTC)
Love this.

I took shop in middle school during the first year when we got to pick home economics OR shop. I didn't want to sew and cook. I felt like I got enough of that at home. Besides, I didn't want to do what was expected of me, or what all the other girls were doing.

I don't actually remember thinking "Oh, and there'll be boys there, too!" but I do remember overhearing some boys joking about me behind my back about taking the class just to be with guys. I thought "Yeah, if I ever thought that, I now repent of it completely. You guys have become SO unappealing."

I agree there IS a double standard in this.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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