I’m an engineer, not a cheerleader. Let’s abandon silly rules about gender roles.

March 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm 3 comments

Reminds me of the “thousand little cuts” story.

The woman standing in front of us turned around to face me. “Are you the cheerleaders?” she beamed. I glanced at my all-girls robotics team with a look of disbelief. As their proud captain, I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with them to build and program a fully-functional robot. Walking into the massive competition arena, I had tuned out the screaming fans and blasting music, focusing on the engineering challenges at hand. But the last thing I ever thought would happen was that my group of twelve girls who routinely wire electronics, design complicated mechanical systems, and write detailed programs would be mistaken for another school’s dance team.

As famed astrophysicist Meg Urry wrote in her Feb. 2005 article in The Post, “discrimination isn’t a thunderbolt, it isn’t an abrupt slap in the face. It’s the slow drumbeat of being unappreciated, feeling uncomfortable, and encountering roadblocks along the path to success.” My science research defines me. Reading journal articles and learning new techniques almost every day, I feel at home in the laboratory. But that isn’t the case for most girls in science and engineering; somewhere along the path to a PhD, girls fall off the scientific bandwagon.

via I’m an engineer, not a cheerleader. Let’s abandon silly rules about gender roles..

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  March 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I have no doubt that this happened. I suspect that the woman who asked is new to FIRST Robotics events though. Over the last dozen or so years I have been involved there has been a steady growth in female participation. And not just as cheerleaders or “marketing” people. Drivers, human players, programmers, mechanics, and leaders are all seeing more and more girls.
    At our school the standard when a girl shows up and isn’t sure what she wants to do on the team is to show her how to use power tools. Several years the student team lead has been female. You’ll also often see girls working on the robot in the pits making repairs between matches.
    All-girl teams, often from all-girl schools but not always, are also growing in number.
    But as I said many people from outside the “FIRST world” may not be aware of this.

  • 2. julie  |  March 11, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Talk to the person who you think might be marketing as if to an engineer, and if she’s marketing, she won’t be offended. And if she’s an engineer she’ll be so grateful that someone assumed she was an engineer for ONCE. It gets exhausting, let me tell you, people constantly assuming you don’t have a clue.

  • […] these first-person accounts of the sexism that women face in computing are also fascinating (see another one here and another one here). I haven’t had the experiences, and the accounts give me fresh […]


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