2012-06-10 18.40.11

My research program at the University of Alabama in Summer 2012 was 50% female because it targeted minorities and women in engineering.

Driving through the refinery, I notice a five bright blue port-a-potties lined up in a row. On the end, a sign is hastily pasted on the last one. It┬áreads “Women”.

Coworkers casually discuss a boss’s maternity leave: “Maybe after her third or fourth [child], she won’t come back.”

As I walk into my first lunch with interns at the refinery, I immediately count the number of girls in the room: 3/15.

Working a refinery as an engineer, I expected a little gender bias. There are definitely more men working at it than women. The situations mentioned above are the moments that stuck out to me. The rest of my first week of work has run smoothly and enjoyably. I know male engineers notice the gender skew to a certain degree. As a girl, these moments are painfully obvious to me when my coworkers comment on an engineer being a mother, not realizing their poor phrasing. After two years, I’m used to having male dominated classes and slight undertones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice. That doesn’t mean that sometimes it doesn’t still irk me.

As a white girl who grew up in a middle class suburb in Ohio, it’s always strange for me to realize I’m a minority. I have nothing to complain in the grand picture. As a woman in engineering, I do not suffer the prejudice that some people suffer due to their race. I’m fortunate. People express joy when they learn I’m a girl pursuing science and it means that I shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding someone to marry (someday). There are also quite a few great scholarship opportunities and clubs to join such as the Society of Women Engineers.

Is this enough?

2012-11-10 22.36.31

My female engineer support group.

Even though as a female engineer I’m not exposed to hatred and/or racism, underlying sexism is a problem. The US does not have enough science and engineering graduates. The US government and colleges are having a lot of trouble recruiting girls to study science, math, technology and engineering. How will they be encouraged to continue studying STEM when people unknowingly discourage them? In order to not simply recruit women in engineering but to maintain their presence in it, underlying sexism needs to be ended. It’s not easy, but it is necessary. By actively protesting it, we create a better world for female engineers to come.

Disclaimer: This post is made to reflect on my experience as a female engineer as outlined in my welcome page and not on my employer. Thank you!

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