Tire changing and women in STEM

College applications are often about listing achievements. We want to know what matters about you that doesn’t fit into a simple list or a box on this application. What counts in your life that’s not necessarily an obvious, quantifiable accomplishment?

Monday: “We men are just better than the women.”

And in that moment I zoned back in. Although I later learned that his, the driving instructor’s, comment was related to how a male’s body chemistry gives him a better alcohol tolerance, his words indeed set a precedent for the rest of the week.

Tuesday: conveniently enough, every example of bad driving had a female driver

Wednesday: he wouldn’t even let his own wife drive because he didn’t trust her abilities

Thursday: indeed as the week progressed, the teacher’s comments worsened and subsequently, any of my remaining confidence as a new driver diminished.

Friday: we were told that we were going to practice changing a tire.

Although all the women in the class were assured that we needn’t know how to do this because we could easily flag someone down, I was still very eager to finally escape the cold confinement of my driver’s ed classroom. The instructor pushed us outside and gave us a few minutes as a group just to see how far we could get on our own. No one moved. Some of the guys had changed a tire before, but they all admitted they didn’t quite remember the exact process so they decided it was best to just wait for the instructor. The girls stood off to the side in a group, not saying a word. I had, in fact,= changed a tire before. That was the first thing my dad taught me when I got my permit, and I remembered every movement. I remembered his words: that it’s important to do things for myself. And that’s when I started.

I set the parking brake. A few voices rose up in protest. They told me that this would interfere with the tire changing process, that we should wait for the instructor to help us. I brushed the voices aside; I knew what I was doing. The rest was clockwork: remove hub cap, loosen lugs, find key lock adapter, remove key lock, locate pinch flange, jack car, remove lugs, remove tire, install spare, tighten lugs, lower car, remove jack, reinstall hub cap, done. I was so infatuated with my work, that I hadn’t noticed the instructor standing a few feet behind me, staring at me, not saying a word.

Looking up at him, I realized I had proved him wrong.

Changing that tire wasn’t important, the later one hundred percent I got on the in class written test could matter less. What matters to me is this: I know I will face opposition throughout my entire life. But what’s important to me is to overcome that; to rely on what I know and how I feel to face any problem that could come my way. I will always do what is unexpected of me, and I know that to be especially true as a little blonde girl who plans to work in the big world of science.

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