Choosing a major… a normal activity when a young adult goes to college. Yet, we still find society sectioning majors off into certain genders. Females are teachers and males are engineers. False. I sat down today and interviewed a Virginia Tech alumni, and her experience being a stem major. Discussing her undergraduate years and her life now in the professional workforce. How she navigated discrimination in classes and opportunities because she was a female in a more male populated major: Stem, Engineering.
“I still felt a lack of respect just because I was a female.“
Q1: Have you ever felt like you’ve been treated differently solely based on your gender?
Yes, as a woman in stem not only have I noticed differences in undergrad in the way I was treated, but also as a young professional.
Q2: What was your most challenging experience as a female undergrad majoring in stem?
As I dove deeper in the engineering program at Virginia Tech, I began to notice that there was a lack of diversity in the program itself. Making me feel like just because I’m a female I was treated less than my male peers.
Q3: How did you overcome this in undergraduate school?
At the beginning, I doubted myself and my abilities to be a stem major. Being talked down on and scared to speak up when I was confused was truly detrimental to my future successes. Once I found confidence in myself, I used the negative experiences as fuel to become my best professional self.
Q4: Now a graduate, do you feel more respected in the workplace?
No, when I was first entering the workplace I still felt a lack of respect just because I was a female. Unlike males, in the stem workforce females have to work for a name of respect. I felt in order to be truly accepted as an engineer I had to prove myself by working twice as hard as my male peers.
Q5: How do you think as a society we can help to change this gender discrimination?
Honestly, it starts at a young age even looking at the toys young boys and girls play with. Boys are given legos and cars while girls are given dollhouses. Societal norms are contributing to this discrimination and seeing this develop when we grow up. Change starts as small as giving the girl the car instead of the doll.
Why is this still a problem?
Any major, any job, any career should not be determined by your gender. Success is not determined by whether you are a female or male. It is determined by hard work, determination, and drive. Sad to see we are still living in a world that doesn’t express that.