Column-What are feminists complaining about?
Glancing around the engineering classroom the other day, I came to the startling realization that I was the only female present.
It hit me again walking down the cavernous corridors of Sarkeys -- the probability of running into a fellow chick is less than overwhelming.
Thinking back to my intro to engineering class (course description: find out exactly what you're trading in your social life for!) there were perhaps six girls in a class of thirty. To my knowledge, three of us are still engineering majors.
None of my engineering classes can boast more than a 10 or 15 percent female presence, and I've only had one female engineering professor.
Loath as I am to echo radical feminism in any way, I'm still curious to know why the College of Engineering remains insulated from the trend toward female majorities seen in the rest of higher education.
My main argument against feminism is usually the obvious point that women have made tremendous gains in society and don't really need the National Organization for Women's help to tie their shoes, thank you very much. I just don't see any doors closed to me. And despite my ongoing progression in a male-dominated academic field, I've yet to bump my head on any glass ceiling.
Feminists generally respond with a harrumphing, "you'll see." They may be right. The entire sum of my grievances to this point consist of one snide comment against the intelligence of women from one of my engineering professors, which I countered by handily keeping up with the guys on his tests and assignments. But I guess I can concede the possibility that come graduation some white guy in a suit will gleefully deny me a job in my field.
But wouldn't that problem go away if too many of the pool of competent engineers were women? NOW would have a heyday with the statistics I found.
In 1998, men earned 49,575 engineering bachelor's degrees. Women earned 11,339. If four semesters of calculus taught me anything, it's how to spot a glaring 62.77 percent disparity.
Different specific fields of engineering vary, with women making the best showing in industrial and chemical engineering, but even there, the men have got us two or three to one. The worst were electrical and mechanical engineering, with fully seven guys per gal.
What's interesting to me is the lack of heyday. Feminism can find time to howl about rich women denied their round of golf with rich men at Augusta, but they don't see a problem with women lacking representation in engineering and other scientific fields? To put a finer point on it, any radical feminist who bothers to be concerned that too few women study science is far more likely to major in women's studies than astrophysics.
NOW may have a problem with the income disparity between men and women, but they miss the fact that the real disparity is between what I'll earn with my engineering degree versus what a psychology or education degree can do.
It all boils down to the matter of why. And I have no idea.
It's not that science is too difficult, because women aren't stupid. It's not that it takes too much time, because women aren't lazy. I could put forth the old theory that men tend to think in math terms and women in verbal, but I have a hard time believing that my brain is so very guy-wired -- I wear makeup and shave my legs and everything.
Some would probably propose some shadowy conspiracy steering girls away from math and science from kindergarten onward, but my own experience is that teachers of both genders were supportive of all of my talents and decisions.
So maybe it's just the way it is, for a lack of any plausible explanation. Even I plan on succumbing to the inevitable. I've made it this far, but engineering is by no means a passionate ambition for me. As soon as that B.S. degree crosses my palm, I'm heading to law school. Many of the guys sitting around me copying down diagrams will go on to earn engineering master and doctorate degrees, and I admire them.
Too bad they'll have to walk all the way to Dale Hall to find a date.
-- Cassandra Showell is an aerospace engineering junior. Her column appears on alternate Fridays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
hello there & you too