Women in the World of Engineering

19%, that is the percentage of women found in a engineering field in Higher Education as determined by a study done in 2016 by the National Girls Collaborative Project. The study also found 18% of people majoring in computer science were women. My major, Computer Engineering, is a weird mix of these two categories. The best way I have found to describe computer engineering is as follows:
Computer Engineering = Computer Science + Electrical Engineering + Computer Hardware

In my graduating class there are around 55 students (give or take), and of those 55 students there are 5 women. Sometimes I am the only girl in a class and this has given me glimpses and sometimes slaps me in the face of issues that women in engineering face.

So, why are there so few women in engineering? . A book called “Why So Few?”, by Catherine Hill, Ph.D, Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Ed.D. adddressed this issue. This book suggests the following reasons: the notion that men are mathematically superior to women, the idea that girls lack interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), and the issues of women being in a STEM environment (such as work life balance). I could go on and on about each issue individually but I will instead give a brief glimpse of my experiences which show some of these topics.

I came from a small all girls high school where I was extremely confident in my abilities in engineering and math. While we all tried our best and would have friendly competition there was never the feeling you had to prove yourself. It was more so just pushing each other to do better. When I came into the field of computer engineer my confidence went down hill fast. I would rarely get nervous on exams in high school, yet here I was freaking out about every exam. I started to wonder if I should be in this field because maybe I wasn’t cut out for it, and maybe I didn’t have the natural “smarts” for engineering. I started to wonder maybe there were few girls for a reason; maybe I was wrong all these years and men were smarter than women. Don’t get me wrong my grades were still good, but mentally I was deteriorating. Mentally I was thinking maybe these guys are right. I mean no one in my family was an engineer. You only ever see men in engineering ads and I had mostly male teachers.

Luckily, I was able to stop my extremely overthinking head and realize some things. In middle school a teacher I knew introduced me to engineering and even back then she believed in me. So people did think I could be engineering, people thought women could be engineers. Then I realized the reason I see so few teachers is because there are so few women, and if I stopped pursuing computer engineering I would just make that topic worse. Then I remembered the person who had been by my side every step of the way. The person chose me to receive a scholarship to pursue computer engineer. The person who said he knew from when I first started speaking about computer engineering I was going to do great things, and this person was a lead of the computer engineering undergraduate program.  Then I realized something else, I wasn’t anxious about not knowing the material. It actually wasn’t until I took a class on women in engineering that I realized I felt the need to prove myself. Everyone around me would go to the guys for questions and no one ever questioned how smart the guys were, but I was constantly being judged and questioned. I have even had a professor demean the two girls in a class. Once I realized that I was not nervous for the exam but about proving myself it helped me gain confidence in myself because then I realized I knew the material, that wasn’t what I was nervous about. From there I slowly started to build my level of respect among my peers. After almost four years I can now say I am not as nervous about proving myself because I know I have gained most people’s respect. For those who still think lower of girls I now have a large network of guys who will now stand up for girls among both teachers and peers.

I know this was a longer post, but trying to sum this up into a few paragraphs is hard. The personal experience shared above gave a description of the first two ideas made in “Why So Few?,” that men are mathematically superior and it also addresses the lack of interest in STEM. I started losing interest when I began realizing there were so few women and when I didn’t have a role model. I cannot speak much on the third point yet because I have not fully entered the workforce and thus cannot talk about work life balance the best. I do hope this article gives some insight though. I also help this article shows some ways for both guys and women to help. Women need to show other women and girls they can achieve success in this career field,  and men need to stand up for those women and also treat them as an equal. One of the best things I can suggest is taking the time to earn the respect of your peers (I know it is a pain and we shouldn’t have to do this when men don’t have to much of the time), but take the time. By doing this you are spreading the word, and you gain a great network of people who you can then openly discuss issues with something they did or others did because I found some people just aren’t aware if they do something wrong.  Also, realize that you didn’t get where you are by accident and that you are there for a reason. When you do start to question or get anxious take notice and question yourself of why you feel this way don’t just ignore the feeling. Most importantly be there for others and be a role model. Fight through, fight to earn respect, and add one more women engineer to the mix because even adding one more to the field every year will start to add up and inspire others. Then maybe one day others won’t have to fight for the respect men are naturally given  right in engineering.

Sources:

 

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Being a Woman in a Male-Dominated Gaming Environment

maxresdefaultEver since I was very young, my main hobby has always been playing video games. I’ve been an avid fan of Nintendo’s various series such as Super Mario, Pokémon, Legend of Zelda, and Star Fox. As I grew older, I began dipping my toes into competitive video games such as League of Legends and Overwatch, which rank players based on their skill. Of all the competitive video games that I have spectated over the years, the one that I have recently been heavily participating in is Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U.

Super Smash Brothers is a fighting game that features the cast of Nintendo’s most popular games, such as Mario, Link, Pikachu, and so many more. I’ve been playing Smash since the very first installment on the Nintendo 64, but I did not start taking the game seriously until almost a year ago, when a friend was telling me that they were going to a ‘major’ tournament in Virginia. The event was streamed online, and I witnessed top level players duke it out through the bracket until one player emerged as the victor. At these events, the spectating crowd is huge and booming with energy as they cheer for their favorite players. Witnessing the exquisite strategies executed by the players and the reactions they would receive filled me with sheer excitement as I imagined what it would be like to get so much praise for being skilled at a video game that I loved.

After my one friend told me how their tournament experience was when they got home, another friend from high school invited me to participate in a tournament he was hosting at CCBC, the community college not far from UMBC. After a week of light practicing, I walked into the building’s auditorium with sweat lacing my controller. The people I had to face in my randomly assigned bracket were strong opponents who knew much more about the game than me, so I quickly lost. However, I made a handful of new friends that day as we bonded over the game and even joined my friend’s team. I seemed to be a popular new face, and I was elated to have finally made friends in high school after being quite lonely for a lot of my life.

Not long after my first tournament, one friend I had met and befriended confessed to me that he thought I was cute, and then promptly asked if I was single or not. I kindly said no, though his intentions were clear to me. I was flattered that my new friend found me cute because I had been bullied in the past for being “ugly”, which damaged my self-esteem heavily. I told my mom about it and she laughed- “See Collette, you’re like a gamer girl! You’re cool and serious about the game, so all the guys will like you.”

I’ve known since I was a kid that video games were a “boy” hobby, and I never really cared. I’ve also been a part of various online communities in which almost all my friends were men, and me being the only girl among them granted me some positive attention. However, this observation changes slightly when you are surrounded by men in real life.

I quickly became more invested in playing Smash Brothers and started visiting more local events to play. I traveled with my team and gained new friends at a rapid pace. With this, people at these events noticed me from afar with a similar general consensus- “Oh, it’s a new girl- she’s not that good at the game yet. She’s kind of cute though.” Everyone at the tournaments I went to treated me kindly and with respect, and I was thankful that most of them didn’t even mention the fact that I was a girl.

The main tournament that I attend weekly has a computer setup that allows us to stream some of the tournament matches on an online streaming website called Twitch. Most of the matches at the beginning of the tournament are called randomly, and the fights are broadcast-ed to an audience of several hundred viewers. There are also cameras that provide a small view of the crowd and the players. After several weeks of attending, I was fatefully called to play on stream against my opponent.

When my name was called, I immediately broke out into a sweat- my heart was pounding and my controller was slipping out of my hands from my trembling. My friends enthusiastically cheered me on from behind, but I was internally screaming. I couldn’t stand the thought of being watched by hundreds of people online who were bound to judge me not only for my amateur gameplay, but my status as a woman. I already knew how they would react, because I had seen many other female gamers treated this way- I would receive responses ranging from pleasant surprise and encouragement, to unflattering objectification.

Here is the recording of the match. I’m the one playing Fox, while my opponent played Yoshi. Click the highlighted link to watch.

I watched the recording when I arrived home later that night. My stomach was sick and I was trying to keep myself calm as I went over the mistakes I made in game, while simultaneously witnessing the way the chat reacted to my presence. As I expected, the responses varied in appropriateness. Here are some prime examples…

Level one. “OMG GIRL” “A GIRL THAT PLAYS FOX?” “SHE’S SO ATTRACTIVE DUDE!”
Level two. “Yooooo let me get that girl’s number!” “Guys, can we please stop acting like virgins and be more welcoming to women?”
Level three. “Wow look at her huge boobs.” “TAKE OFF YOUR TOP”
Level four- the worst of it all. “Lol, I bet she’s a trap.”

For those that may not know, “trap” is a derogatory term aimed towards transgender people. In this instance, the people who continued to chime in on this topic were basically trying to imply that I wasn’t a “real girl”- that I was probably a man trying to maintain a feminine appearance. For a while I pondered WHY this was even a question- but I realized that it was because I was a woman amongst a crowd of mostly men. Summed up, the chat seemed to be asking among themselves, “How could a woman possibly exist in this space? She must be a man.”

At this point I must confess- I personally do not identify as a woman, but rather as a nonbinary person, meaning not female or male. For almost all circumstances, I must refer to myself as a woman to protect my identity, in fear of being made fun of or ridiculed by my peers. Playing Smash Brothers has allowed me to be more in contact with my masculine side, which makes me feel at peace with myself. Although my closest friends in the smash community are aware that I am nonbinary and respect me for it, being called a “trap” and a “tranny” by people online has caused me much dysphoria. Do I keep presenting as female in front of these people just to be objectified as a woman, or do I keep up a more masculine/neutral appearance only to be accused of being a “trap” in the end?

These questions plague me at times, but I never let them stop me from improving at the game. I have continued to make strides in my local scene, slowly but surely improving my skills. However, there have been multiple instances where men have flirted with me in ways that didn’t end well. One boy expressed interest with me for a while, but when it came down to him confessing his crush for me and I replied that I was taken, he never spoke to me again, and I was a bit sad that I had lost a decent friendship. In another recent situation, a man casually asked for my number after a tournament, stating that he wanted more people to play Smash with to practice, but promised me in response to saying I was taken when he asked if I was single, “No bullshit, you’re really pretty, I’ll wait until you’re single.” This made me uncomfortable, to say the least.

This newfound attention from men that I had never received before has allowed me to analyze how women in gaming communities are often treated. Many other women have similar experiences to mine, and I even talk with the few women I know in the smash community about our gripes with creepy men. I will continue my journey as a Smash Brothers player in hopes that I can inspire other women and trans people to do their best and not be discouraged by hateful people.

In conclusion, I want gaming communities to be more accepting to women and other gender minorities and normalize their presence so that they may feel just as welcome as men. We all enjoy playing video games, and we all deserve to be able to play games without the threat of being objectified or treated differently for our status.

Art Hoeism and Intersectional Feminism

In “Claiming an Education” by Adrienne Rich it was brought to attention that women in particular need to take charge of their educations. As important as it is for a woman to assert her identity in a classroom environment, it is also important to assert their identity outside of the classroom, in day to day life.

The Art hoe movement began in around 2014, initially focusing on Women of Color (WoC) and People of Color (PoC). An “art hoe” is essentially someone who is focused on asserting their racial identity and sexual identities in a beautiful way. The founders of the art hoe movement, including 15-year-old genderfluid Mars, and Jam, (both under the instagram name @arthoecollective) intend for the movement to be both a reclamation of oneself and independence through art, but also a redefinition of the word “hoe” (or “ho,” as it is sometimes spelled) from slang for whore to a word without bearing a negative connotation.

Through being an “art hoe,” people are inspired to celebrate their identities through art, self love, and self acceptance. Since the intersectional feminist movement includes, but is not limited to, all PoC, WoC, including transgender PoC, it is a movement that inspires people to take charge of their presence, to love and respect themselves in a world that marginalizes them, and to understand how they may make change in their world.

As such a young movement, the main tool for an art hoe is the selfie. Through art hoe selfies, which often feature PoC in front of classical works of art, identity and presence must be recognized by the onlooker. As Jam once said to the Huffington Post,

“Seeing a disabled trans black woman superimposing herself over a white man’s painting saying ‘I am here, I have worth, and my existence and art matters!’ is so wildly radical and revolutionary.”

These selfies are not just trendy ways of posting more pictures online, which some people tried to convert the art hoe movement into, instead it is a revolutionary political statement. In fact, the art hoe movement is asserting its existence over those who attempted to render it as just a trend.

Thus, the founders of the art hoe movement coined a new identity that all creative marginalized individuals can cling to. The movement has effectively carved a safe space for marginalized groups into the internet, and into contemporary society. This movement is a prime example of how the youth are recreating social movements in today’s society. The art hoe movement is a refreshing manifestation of the intersectional feminist movement, as it includes fighting for the rights of women, WoC, and transgender men/women, and other marginalized groups. Though the movement focuses on asserting identity and existence, it promotes acceptance and understanding of other groups.


Cited:

Blay, Zeba “How The ‘Art Hoe’ Movement Is Redefining The Selfie For Black Teens.”The Huffington Post. Publisher, Huffington Post. 31 August 2015 Published.

 

Frizzell, Nell. “#Arthoe: the teens who kickstarted a feminist art movement.” The Guardian. Publisher, The Guardian. 15 August 2015 Published.

 

Is it really a “feminist education?”

Most of the people I meet are shocked when I tell them that I went to a private catholic high school. What was I, a lower-class, homosexual, Jewish woman, doing at a school like that? I was privileged enough to be able to attend school there, but what really drew me to an all-girls private school was the promise of a “feminist education.” I would be taught a curriculum created by women, taught by women, to a small student body of female students. I thought it was going to be an enlightening, empowering experience—but after four years, I saw that wasn’t necessarily the case.

For four years, I was forced to hide vital parts of my identity that I had always been proud of. I couldn’t tell anyone I was a lesbian, couldn’t tell anyone I was half Israeli, couldn’t tell anyone I was Jewish, and could never bring up my political beliefs. It was a suburban private school, where most of the student body came from upper-class conservative families. There were times where I felt unsafe, but I still loved the other students there and found a group of friends in similar situations. They have been a support system for me ever since.

Plus, even on the hottest of days, students going on field trips were banned from wearing shorts. Teachers were told to prevent any girl in shorts from getting on the bus. Some of them even received demerits for knowingly breaking a school rule. According to our all-female administration, a good student should never expose more than 50% of her bare legs in public. Heaven forbid somebody see a young woman wearing short pants when it’s 90 degrees outside!

My high school also completely lacked STEM classes for students planning on taking on STEM majors and careers in the future. We had your high school basics—environmental science, biology, and chemistry. We had no computer science classes, no advanced math classes, nothing close to an engineering course, and our IT department was just a room full of 12 Mac computers, which were broken most of the time (keep in mind our yearly tuition without financial aid was $11,000.) It’s been a huge setback for me in college, being a computer science major. I’ve had to work twice as hard as other students in my field, because most of my knowledge never came from a classroom. Other women from my high school have had the same issue when going to STEM majors, and I admire all of them for how hard they’ve worked.

So I ask, can a school really pride itself on being an advocate for feminism when it actually limits the potential and freedom of its students? Is it “empowering” to force some students to hide their identities and beliefs for fear of rejection and ridicule? When will these institutions change to meet the standards of modern feminism, or will they be forever trapped in a mid-twentieth century outlook? I’d like to know what all of you think about this. Hopefully ours is the generation that redefines what a feminist education is all about.

The topic of Transgender people in our society

There have also been people through history who were transgender. However, only in recent years have more and more individuals been comfortable coming out to their friends and family, because the stigma in society is arguably getting lower. I believe that protecting transgender rights is a responsibility of everyone in society, and that this issue closely relates to the topics we are studying in class.

Firstly, I’d like to emphasize that the term “transgender” is not merely referring to only one group of people, but rather that it is an umbrella term under which many groups can fit into. This includes people who are gender fluid, pan gender, etc. it is a common misconception that transgender people only consist of those individuals who transform from male to female or vice versa. Also, not all transgender people get surgeries! Many people believe that, but it is not the case. People do not need to undergo any type of surgery to be deemed transgender.

In this post, I mainly want to focus on how to be allies to transgender people and how to support them. In the news, there have also been many issues relating to transgender bathrooms and whether or not they should be implemented in more places. There are arguments from both sides, some praising this idea, whole others saying this would alienate them further. The important step is to do so without making them feel excluded from society. As with many other topics, I believe kids should be introduced to the concept of transgender people by the end of elementary school. How can people be made aware if they are not taught from an early age? In addition, introducing young children to this concept will help many kids who are transgender, but have no idea why they feel the way they feel. I believe that this is highly important because transgender people recognize their gender as early as age 3. Creating awareness to this group of people will further (hopefully) limit bullying because I think it will help create more understanding. Nearly 1.3 million people in the U.S. are transgender, and that is only the people who have been accounted for.

In addition, educating people about transgender individuals will debunk many mythsthat surround them. One of the worst misconceptions about this community is that transgender people are simply gay and decided to change their sex so they wouldn’t be gay. This could not be further from the truth. Sexual orientation and gender are not connected in that manner. If more people learned, they also wouldnt be confused. Education will lead to less transphobia because it won’t be such a “taboo” subject anymore.

I wanted to wrap up by including some ways that we can act as allies to transgender individuals. Often many of us want to help, but just don’t know how. Personally, I had a friend who I met my first year in college, (who’s even name I don’t want to put out). Biologically born as a female, they always felt as though they were male. Their mother had a hard time accepting this and wanted her daughter to be more girly. Eventually, they were able to cut their hair and now go by a male name. He was even able to create a new Facebook account with his new name. Throughout his journey, I learned a lot about transgender people. Of course every case is different, but one of the major tips I have is to ask the person what pronoun they prefer; don’t just guess. Another tip is to not make a big deal out of their situation. Even a compliment can be taken to offense if someone’s says something like, “I couldn’t not tell you were transgender.”

I hope you guys found this post interesting and relevant. I’d love to hear all your comments!

Let’s talk about planned parenthood…

Planned Parenthood is an organization that has been in the spotlight for quite some time now and I think it is something important that we talk about as people nationwide march in support of them. Recently this weekend across the nation there were Anti-abortion protests challenging why tax dollars should be given to Planned Parenthood if they’re “killing babies”. This is a horrible misconception about what Planned Parenthood does and I’m here to iron out some of those misunderstandings. 

First off…

  1. Planned Parenthood states that according to statistics in 2014, only about 3% of services were related to abortion.
  2. Primarily Planned Parenthood helps provide people with affordable access to contraceptives, prevention of STI’s in addition to other general health provider services such as cancer screenings and checkups.
  3. Planned Parenthood serves men as well

The issue here is certain people in government want to cut funding for the organization. The organization is given more than $500 million per year from the government (75% coming from medicare). Planned Parenthood is such a beneficial thing to a wide arrange of people from women of color to families of low socioeconomic status and all of the people in between. One of the biggest issues in my opinion that is facing the United States is the inequality in healthcare. This leaves a lot of men, women and children in a spot where they may be able to just barely afford a home and some groceries but healthcare is a stretch that is extremely expensive. Planned Parenthood is able to help out people like them, Planned Parenthood helps women that might’ve gotten off a day on their pill and need emergency contraceptive, they help men that can’t afford healthcare and need a certain service. 

One of the largest issues with women is being inclusive while still uniting against issues that threaten us. We need to be including trans women, women of color, women regardless age, women that are scared, women that are eager, women that are trying to help other women and also the women that are tired of being associated with the stereotypes of being a woman. One topic that is large in class is not leaving people out and if we can do that then we might be able to tackle anything we put our minds to. 

In the reading by Rich about women and their education opportunities it discussed about how women at women’s colleges need to be lifted up rather than held back because of a seemingly second rate education. That is the same idea here. Just because women’s reproductive rates are slightly more involved than a mans does not mean it is any less important. Women’s reproductive rights could be seen in the “A” and “Not A” example in class. Women’s rights are not Males rights and therefore can be seen as lesser. We have to be the ones to change that alongside our allies. Cutting Planned Parenthood excludes groups that need it and by doing so we are moving women backwards not forwards.

Addiction & Feminism

In today’s world, feminist aims are generally focused around the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and identity. Gender roles are rejected, new definitions are created and questioned, and an inclusive environment is fostered for all in the advancement of equality. However, while prohibition was a specific issue that early feminists could potentially rally around during the first wave of feminism, drug abuse has yet to remain an overall, continued focus.

So why has feminism generally failed to address addiction?

Perhaps, addiction is simply counted as a symptom of a problm. It may be assumed that social constructs are the true perpetrators, and by dismantling those institutions, the toxicity will be limited. This way of thinking is similar to the idea that removing a person from a stressful environment will reduce general stress– yes, it may work, but the environment may not have been the root of the problem. Additionally, addiction affects people from all walks of life in a variety of facets and degrees. It’s a broad disease that attacks indiscriminately and without notice, and it cannot always be immediately connected to the main identities that normally intersect within discussions on discrimination and opportunity.

In short, dealing with deviation from a social norm may not be the sole cause for drug use. Addiction certainly did not subside with the crack cocaine epidemic of the 80’s. The prevalence of drug abuse has been swiftly growing, and it seems that the public understanding is as stagnant as ever.

Consider the life of a person battling addiction. True recovery is a journey that relies on total abstinence from the drug (or drugs) of choice. Maintaining sobriety requires constant vigilance, and whether an addict chooses to identify their addiction as a disease or an identify should not matter. The bubble of ability contains a variety of diseases, a racial identity is found in a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, and gender/sex/sexuality is defined by biological and social patterns. Addiction is biological and social, and it can be exacerbated by class, race, sexuality, and many other identities. It should not be a question of whether addiction is a disease or an identity– the feminist focus should definitively include raising awareness on addiction and providing opportunities for healing, especially for those whose lives are negatively affected by addiction in confluence with another identity.

EDIT: In the first paragraph, the author referenced “abolition” when in fact, the word should have been “prohibition.”

Why the Minimum Wage is a Feminist Issue

I used to work a retail job at a craft supply store. The baseline pay was minimum wage (which in my county at the time was $9.55/hour, higher than the national wage but still below the $15 wage many activists seem to be fighting for). If an employee was promoted to a “keyholder”, someone other than the store Manager and Assistant Manager who was able to perform manager duties, were given a 50 cent per hour raise. I don’t know how much the Store Manager and Assistant Manager were paid, but I do know the Assistant Manager was paid less. But this was fine, right? Surely we were all teenagers, putting in a few hours after high school to earn a little spending money.

Wrong.

Every one of my coworkers desperately needed the money they were making, and almost all of them were female. The majority of the employees at the store were mothers, one keyholder even a single mother making money to support her son. I had coworkers who were military spouses supplementing the family income and coworkers with grown children funding their own education to get a better job. The Assistant Manager had started as a Team Member and worked her way up, only to be told that the company we worked for didn’t promote employees in the store to full manager positions. Corporate was worried about favoritism. This woman was worried about sending her daughter to college.

The Team Members who weren’t parents also didn’t fit the stereotype of the entitled teenager working their first job. I worked alongside artists who immediately combined their paycheck with their employee discount to buy supplies while also regularly attending craft fairs. I had a coworker putting herself through nursing school, which is to say she was working on a nursing associates degree at a community college. Her paycheck wouldn’t have covered a more expensive program. A woman who joined the store team the last month I was there needed work hours to qualify for food stamps and had to transfer from her old job because they wouldn’t let her eat when she needed to. She was diabetic. I was honestly the closest one there to what a minimum wage worker is assumed to be, using my year of medical leave to start saving up to pay off my massive college loan debt.

The crazy thing is, many customers assumed we were working retail as a hobby. After all, it was a craft store, we were almost entirely all women, weren’t we just trying to get a discount on yarn or something?

This is an issue I see playing out in most stores I go to. Most employees in the service industry I encounter are women, and many of the places they work do deal in what are often considered female products. From stores selling makeup and clothing to the stereotype that cooking is a female thing to do, I see the potential to argue that these female employees are just “doing what they love” everywhere. As long as the majority of minimum wage employees continue to be women struggling to support themselves and their families, the need to raise the minimum wage will continue to be a feminist issue.