This interview was conducted with a student who chooses to remain anonymous but thought that sharing her side of the obstacles she faces throughout her education was important and should be heard.
What is your Major / What interests you most about your studies?
“I am a junior at James Madison University majoring in physics and math. I really like solving problems, it’s a really nice feeling getting to the end of it, and it’s cool learning about the languages you use to describe reality and physical concepts.”
What is the male / female ratio in your classes?
“Well I know in the physics major there are maybe 25 physics majors in my class, and two of those not including me are girls. In my math classes there are more ladies.”
Do you ever feel that you have to work harder in your classes than your male peers? If so, why?
“Not necessarily working harder in terms of like studies, but working harder to be heard. There are men who like to interrupt sometimes when they feel like they have a better idea. Sometimes I have to assert myself more than usual to have people listen to my ideas as well.”
Can you share a story about a time in your classes where you felt you were treated differently because your a woman?
“I was asking a question, this happened in one of my math classes, it was a pretty complicated question, I had to repeat myself to the Professor because it was a certain part in the equation on the board that I was pointing at and he wasn’t sure which part, but then a kid in front of me decided that it would be helpful to interrupt me very loudly to say ‘What I think she’s trying to say is’ and then like repeating my question. Which is annoying because I’m perfectly capable of asking my own questions. Then when I was a freshman, in introductory physics courses, everyone just assumed they were so smart because they were like (male) sophomore engineering majors or similar, but I was able to get the answer just as well as they could.”
What are some steps that you think JMU could take to insure equality within stem majors?
“I feel like JMU takes a good amount of steps, it’s more within the student body. Cause lots of institutions or departments want women, they want the representation, and the diversity. So I feel like I’m supported by the faculty, but there’s some peers who need to learn how to do the same.”
After talking with the student I can conclude that while the faculty within the stem department is welcoming towards women, some students are not, whether it is a conscious or unconscious action. I think that the number of these incidence and the mindset of knowing better than everyone else would decrease if the student body was forced to learn more about discrimination, when it’s not blatantly displayed. If you feel as though you are being discriminated against for any reason whatsoever at JMU, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity.