How many of you know the feeling when you’re at a competition, you look around and find yourself surrounded by guys? We get things “mansplained” to us, and sometimes we get pushed around just because we are the only girl on the field. I graduated this past year, and went to college for Aerospace Engineering, on a campus where the ratio is 18% girls. That same feeling I got at every competition, I get on campus. FIRST prepares us for almost every aspect of life; working as a team, developing a business plan, and practical uses of engineering skills. One thing that it prepared me for, was college as a female engineering major.
For starters, not much is different than being at a competition on a male dominated campus. We tend to get the “girl jokes” from time to time, and we without a doubt feel the ratio weighing heavily against our favor, but it isn’t too noticeable other than when you glance around a classroom of 20 and see only 2 girls. But how do we deal with it? Not so much as cope with the ratio, but even just find more girls on campus to hang out with besides our roommate?
1. Get Involved: There are a number of organizations for women to get involved in on campus. The biggest one is SWE (Society of Women Engineers). Clubs and organizations like SWE are a great way to connect with the other females on campus and spread the word about encouraging more girls to get involved in STEM.
2. Team Up: Like I said before, even in a class of 20, there is no way that you are the only girl in the class. Sure, you are definitely going to be friends with plenty of guys on campus, but try to get to know the few other girls in the class. The chances are they are feeling the same ratio you are, and they are looking for a few girls to be their friends too.
3. Join a Sorority: Sometimes sororities are viewed with stereotypes. But, although I didn't join one, they are great ways to get to know all the female engineers on campus. Sometimes, you just need to know there are other girls there for you, even if it is just to do your hair for the ROTC Ball or Homecoming.
Now, although most colleges have a number of opportunities for women in engineering to get involved, if you are having trouble finding a way to reach out to other females on campus, go to your engineering department and talk to them about opportunities for women on campus. A lot of colleges are looking for more female engineers, and departments are more than willing to tell you about what is available for you on campus.
Overall, as a female on a male dominated campus, it isn’t a big deal. We need more women in engineering, but view campus as another FIRST competition, you are all competing for the same thing with equal chances of being successful.
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