“Really? You want to be an engineer?”

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Today there is a common misconception that gender inequality no longer exists. Yet Stephanie Coontz of the New York Times has analyzed the data and, for me at least, put this misconception to rest in her article “The Myth of Male Decline.” She uses Betty Friedan’s novel, The Feminine Mystique, as further support for her point. Friedan aimed to convince women of the 1950s and 1960s that that in order to be happy, women must have personal or professional goals. Coontz believes that women should embrace Friedan’s ideas and, despite the still-prevalent gender inequalities, strive for fulfilling vocations.

Based on a study from 2011, only 11.5% of Electrical Engineering degrees went to women. Because of the lack of female participation in the field, my passion for engineering comes as a surprise to many. As a woman, I often get a confused look or awkward laugh of disbelief when I tell someone I plan on studying electrical engineering. I’ve encountered situations where I have been encouraged to consider other career options. I specifically experienced a large amount of adversity in my Digital Electronics class, where I was one of three girls out of twenty-two students. At this point I was used to the uneven male to female ratio; however, for the first time I recognized how I was viewed by my peers. My input wasn’t as valued as that of others, no one sought out my help on assignments, and my male peers were shocked when I scored higher than they did on exams. My parents were always supportive of my engineering path, so I had never expected to receive this type of discrimination. Luckily, my teacher, Mr. Kutch, was also supportive throughout the entire course. He treated me the same as every other student in the class, and was there to help me whenever I needed him. People like Mr. Kutch and my parents reassure me that not everyone out there is going to be as naïve and discouraging as some of the boys in Digital Electronics.

I’ve struggled with trying to figure out why many people felt that Electrical Engineering was not a realistic career option for me. It is frustrating that my generation is still as gender prejudiced, at least in this way, as it was years ago. Soon, this frustration turned into a dedicated passion to prove the nay-sayers wrong. I have learned to not allow others’ opinions to fog my path to success. I have developed into someone who is not afraid to fight for her beliefs. Being “different” should not have a negative connotation. Instead, I strive to be different. My prospective career path is considered “different” for a female, but that’s what I love about it. Regardless of challenges I may face or adversary I might receive, I am determined to succeed in Electrical Engineering and in everything else, regardless of gender, regardless of expectations.

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