It’s the year 2014. Every day we are bombarded with the ideas of equal rights, acceptance, tolerance, diversity, etc. As much as we are bombarded with it, people are not as receptive as we would like to think. Point blank, I am a white female, so many people would probably assume that I don’t experience any sort of intolerance, but being a female in a male dominated field of study does introduce some issues. I cannot say that I have experienced any sort of violence or large amounts of aggression, but I have experienced many jokes and snide comments at my expense. While comments of this nature are probably only meant for a laugh, it perpetuates the idea that women in engineering is in itself a joke, or any intolerance for that matter. Luckily, I am very comfortable with myself, so comments like this are not necessarily bothersome to me, but I know some people are not as secure. And I firmly believe that its not something that they should have to be insecure about.
One example of an inappropriate remark was when I was buying my laptop before my first year of college. I was with my father and we were talking to the sales associate about what type of laptop I should purchase. I explained to the associate that I was majoring in chemical engineering and how I had heard some laptops may not be compatible with the programs I would need to use. He looked at my father and said, ” and here I thought she would just want the one that was the shiniest!” Both the sales associate and my dad laughed at this, but I didn’t find it funny.
This raised a few questions in my head. Was it just because I am a female that I wouldn’t know the difference between a good and bad laptop? Or was it because I was wearing a dress and makeup? Would he have even considered saying that to a male who had expressed the exact same thing? Would my mom have laughed if she came with me instead of my dad? There were a lot of ways I wanted to respond. I wanted to yell at the sales associate for being insensitive. I wanted to yell at my dad for laughing. I wanted to leave the store. But instead, I forced a smile and continued with the purchase. I sincerely wish I defended myself, or made some comment back. I did, however, learn a few very important things.
The first was that I couldn’t be mad at my dad, because in a way, it was a humorous comment. Also, since he isn’t a female, he wouldn’t necessarily understand why it bothered me so much. The second is that if I’m comfortable with who I am, what other people say doesn’t matter. I am a girly-girl, for lack of a better term. I like makeup, I am in a sorority, I hate bugs, and I like things that sparkle. But I am also interested in math and science and learning, and I love solving problems and doing labs. This whole post was kind of a rant, but it also contains a very important point. If you allow other people to define you or limit you in any way, you are giving away your potential to be virtually anything you desire. You need to make choices for yourself and recognize that everyone else is virtually irrelevant.