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Women in Engineering - advice from a dad

  1. May 21, 2014 #1
    My daughter graduates next week.

    Major in EE, minor in Physics and Econ.

    Here are my observations as a parent of a daughter who was only 1 of 4 EE females at her school. My daughter's school is proud of how they encourage females in engineering, but they should be ashamed of it.

    Statistically they had a good mix of female engineering majors, but not if you take out environmental and civil engineers.

    Almost every Electrical Engineering professor spent a nice amount of time during the first class when they had a female student to express their views and comment on my daughter being in their class. It went one of 2 ways.. "You will have a hard time as a female in the major and finding a job" or "guys, she is the smartest person in this class because she will get a job very easy since companies have to hire female engineers".

    After that type of encouragement, the male EE students start to resent the female students..

    First, Women in Engineering is a broad term. Don't buy marketing material from the various school's stats touting their outreach and enrollment of women in their engineering programs. More important find out how many drop the specific major.

    a few good indicators..

    schools who feel the need to devote money to various recruitment efforts or to the women in engineering foundations probably are not a first choice for schools. There is probably a fundamental problem internally which is causing them not to attract and keep female engineering students.

    schools with no female professors or a very low number in the engineering department will be a good indicator.. ( EE has very few women, let alone professors, so look across the departments that are scientific ).

    ask what their drop rate is for women in the major.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2014 #2


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    Good points, eedad. A big congrats to your daughter!

    Yep, there are still dinosaurs around, for sure. For people who can't fathom how it might feel to be singled out like that, substitute "brown eyed people" for "female" and think about how weird that would be. Especially if you have brown eyes!

    I think those are fair questions.
  4. May 22, 2014 #3
    Thanks and she worked very hard.
  5. May 25, 2014 #4
    Congratulations to your daughter!

    As a fellow female (physics), I can attest to this. I work very hard to be recognized for various awards and opportunities, however they carry less weight on my resume because people assume they were given to me because of my gender. Because of this, the kind of "affirmative action" taken to promote women in the sciences backfires. I am the only female upperclassman at my school who is going to pursue graduate studies, and as your daughter knows, it can be very frustrating.

    Why do you feel that schools who recruit females should be avoided? Many do so because of funding reasons - their funding agencies (NSF, the state, etc.) require this. In addition, I think that a lack of females in professor positions doesn't mean women are particularly frowned upon at that school. Many females choose not to obtain a PhD and devote their lives to countless hours of research so that they can have a family. Which is something I don't look forward to facing, but I can't blame women for choosing not to accept a professor opportunity.
  6. May 25, 2014 #5


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    My perspective on this is as a male, but over the years in industry. I've had male and female engineers working for me, had male and female engineers as my next-level-up supervisor, and worked for male amd female project leaders and heads of department.

    Bluntly, there are two types of female engineer in my experience: those who get on with being engineers and progress as far as their ability takes them, and those who whine about being female and don't make much career progress at all. It's your choice (or your daughter's) which type you want to be.

    And you can divide male engineers into the same two categories. It's not a gender-speciifc thing IMO.
  7. May 25, 2014 #6
    It is not gender specific? If you can bluntly divide all engineers in the same two categories; why even bother mentioning gender?
  8. May 25, 2014 #7


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    I believe it was his way of indicating it's not gender specific.

    STEM is not gender, ethnic or racially specific, but it seems far too many folks still dwell on gender, ethnicity, race, or same other irrelevant attribute with respect to an individual's capability. That's rather sad in this day and age, or any other age for that matter.

    Congratulations to one's daughter. I'm sure she succeeded because of her abilities and hard work. I hope she continues to pursue her academics and ultimately a rewarding career.

    One made excellent points, and I concur with lisab.

    Re: "Almost every Electrical Engineering professor spent a nice amount of time during the first class when they had a female student to express their views and comment on my daughter being in their class." - Clearly that is not appropriate.
  9. May 26, 2014 #8
    Overall the experience made her strong, though her second year she really had a hard time of it. Her university actually records the lectures and my daughter and I would listen to the comments and she would make fun of them. ( I thought early on she was taking them out of context or being too sensitive, so she had me listen to them ).

    In the end I think those type of comments don't hurt the women, but they do teach the male students to perpetuate the culture that the women in the major are given something while the males have to work hard to earn it.

    From the few comments by women on this thread it is clear that this may not be the norm, but at least my daughter's school is not the black swan either.

    My daughter is not getting a graduate degree. Not right now. She wants to work for a while and figure out where she wants to specialize and then go back for graduate work.
  10. May 26, 2014 #9


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    I agree that the comments made by professor were unprofessional and should never have been said. But even without such remarks, one wonders why the males in the programs wouldn't feel that way to an extent. Many scholarships exist only for female and minority students and affirmative action is prevalent (to varying degrees) across STEM. Many feel that if we are to treat everyone the same by not singling students out, we should treat everyone the same by not giving preference to gender or race in any other way.

    Edit: It's good that your child doing well and you should feel proud for encouraging them. I think that the nice thing about STEM is that all hard-working students are rewarded by knowledge and opportunity.
    Last edited: May 26, 2014
  11. May 26, 2014 #10
    My daughter did not get any specific grants or aid due to her gender. She was not accept to her school or the EE program based on gender. She had a statistically perfect verbal SAT score. and her math score was a little lower, but not much ( her high school math program catered to state testing and not actually prepping for college. so she had not even had TRIG, or Calc1 when she had taken the SAT's ).

    Maybe affirmative action does occur, but my daughter did not benefit from and it actually hurt her,,, because it is assumed that she is only there as window dressing or some gift.

    The way financial aid works, grants really don't help get person X into college, or really even help them pay for it. Grants reduce the part of direct grants and or student loans.. they don't reduce the student financial part of the equation. So if your expected contribution is 5,000 of a 30,000 annual cost, a 5,000 grant does not cover your part, it comes out of the other 25,000 you would have received as part of federal loans and grants, or any grants the school would have given.
  12. May 27, 2014 #11


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    My understanding is that the affirmative action is only temporary - once it will promote enough minorities to shift the situation it will be no longer needed.

    I have a feeling this is one of these cases when you are wrong whether you do something, or do nothing - you just get flak from different corners.

    And... the world is full of jerks. Please disperse, there is nothing to see.

    Fingers crossed for your daughter :smile:
  13. May 27, 2014 #12


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    Agreed, it is unfortunate situation. It sounds like she is a good student and will reap the rewards of her hard work. I sincerely wish her the best and hope that she is only ever judged by her merit as an engineer and character as an individual.

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