Hi! My name’s Erin. I participated on FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge team 4140 Fish in the Boat as well as FIRST Robotics Competition team 3184 Blaze Robotics. I just graduated from high school and from the FIRST program. I will be attending Iowa State University in the fall and am set as the president of the FIRST Alumni organization on campus, but haven’t yet connected with a team in the area. It feels like I’m having a midlife crisis at 17. But that’s another story.
I saw a post on tumblr a few weeks ago that said (1):
Robotics Girl Problems
1. Everyone expects that you just do business on the team.
2. You can never go to a competition and not get hit on.
3. People look at you like your alien if you end up being on the drive team.
4. People expect that you are a chairman’s’ presenter.
5. If you comment about design, people tend to shrug it off.
Why is there still a stigma about women in robotics?
I don’t know about you, but that about sums up a competition for me.
At the FTC World Championships last year we were one of (from what I can remember and I may be wrong) four all-girl drive teams - two of the other three teams were all girls to begin with, not mix-gendered teams. There are 72 teams that compete at FTC champs.
I’ve come to expect to be hit on and am happily surprised when I’m not. My phone number has been asked for TWELVE times this season. I started keeping track because I couldn’t believe the regularity of it.
I think there are two sides to the issue of girls in engineering in FIRST. One is that no, there are not enough women in engineering: in industry or in FIRST. And we need to promote women in engineering as much as we can. At Iowa State, out of the 8,000 students that are in the college of engineering, only 17% are women. And that’s pretty average across the country. (2) That’s an absurdly low number, but it is increasing. We need to develop positive ways to increase that number and FIRST Ladies is a fantastic way to retain girls in STEM and FIRST by promoting a community of women, female role models, and strong leaders.
This leads to the other side. Though getting women in STEM is highly important, we cannot make the girls who participate more on the business, marketing, or outreach side of things feel excluded or alienated. At one of the FRC competitions I was at last year, I had a team say to me “Pfft, of course you’re on the business team and obviously you’re doing the Chairman’s presentation.” I was surprised by this one. Chairman’s is a big deal, why is it a bad thing that I actually enjoyedworking on it? Girls in engineering are so rare on FRC teams that it has almost become a joke when a girl is in the pits because obviously she is only prepping for Chairman’s.
Does it suck to be the only girl in your electricity class? Yes, and I speak from experience. Is it obnoxious to have drive teams that don’t listen to a word you say because you’re a girl? Yes, and I speak from experience.
Is having a place to share these experiences and learn how other girls dealt with uncomfortable situations important? Absolutely. FIRST Ladies is a wonderful organization to provide just that as well as to connect girls with women in the industry to learn more about their experiences.
1.Thanks to roboticsmadness.tumblr.com for letting me use her post!
Do you want to be a guest blogger on FIRST Ladies? Send us an email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you Erin!