Engineering Diversity

Engineering Diversity

This post is predominately in reaction to the Facebook/ social media posts “Me too” as a way women this week have taken to trying to show the extent to which sexual assault and harassment exists in the US. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this social media movement, a lot of which come from the idea that women shouldn’t have to “out” their personal experiences to give a magnitude to a problem, but this week I want to focus on a marked trend and that is salaries and jobs and women in engineering.

This is an issue I think on a lot. I strongly believe that people should be judged on the quality of their work and find it seriously compelling when you learn about how introducing double blind auditions was the first time a woman had been hired to a major orchestra. I think its crazy that in 2017 this conversation is still ongoing and that individuals honestly think that gender is a reason to doubt someones abilities. But I digress.

In terms of ethics, this is honestly not something we’ve discussed or read and I have to wonder why. No where in our ethics readings have we looked at equality as ethical. We’ve focused on the role of integrity in engineering and of bringing in the public, but what about fellow experts who are not getting credit or the opportunities they deserve? Including and representing diversity is a hot topic right now in both collegiate and work settings and I do think there is serious discussion as to how to ethically do this.

I don’t believe that women should be given preferential treatment solely because they are women in the hiring process, but we need to acknowledge that being a woman in a male field sets you at a disadvantage. Its hard to envision yourself in a role you’ve never seen anyone like you have. If I walk into an interview with all male interviewers and an equally qualified male counterpart does as well, he will most likely have more conversationally relevant topics to talk about. Whether thats sports or video games or just overall manliness (I know there are women who rebuke these trends I am all for it but there are genuinely some conversational differences that arise between a group of men and a group of men with one woman). I’m not sure how to fix this issue but the idea of a “diversity hire” also raises some concerns, but I don’t have a better solution. Studies shows that the perceived gender and race on your resume can affect your chances of being given an interview. I know women who intentionally put I. Keenum over Ishi because they know they statistically are more likely to be taken seriously. I’m wondering if double blind hiring could be a thing and I’m trying to figure out how it will work. I realize that even this won’t overcome decades of systematically altering the opportunities given to different races and genders, for instance a heavily involved member of SWE is generally thought to be female, but there has to be a way to help this out.

I realize I didn’t address all the things I wanted to and that there is infinitely more to the conversation but take a second to realize that this affects academia as well as the “real world”. Women published in high impact journals are less cited than male counterparts by both men and women.

I hope something changes but until then I’m glad I have a gender neutral name that no one really knows what to do with.


3 Responses

  1. Oh, and this was on WVTF today–didn't hear it until after I commented:

  2. I feel very conflicted about "me too" as someone who could make many posts because it feels like an empty, slacktivist way to draw attention to the larger issue. Without actively changing culture and attitudes towards women, there really is so little that can be done.

    As I apply to graduate programs, a number of people who I encounter through my job, school, and my family have told me that I'll totally get into whichever school I want to because being a woman applying to engineering programs "helps." Personally, I wish to get into programs based on my capabilities and potential, but I do understand that in the case of recruitment gender plays a role, even if it is upsetting to me that people think I will only get in because women are underrepresented in engineering. I feel bad about it to some extent because "soft skills" are my strong suit, and my undergrad is not in engineering.

    When I began university, a number of my friends were engineering and computer science majors. Many of the (male) CS majors I knew complained about women getting more jobs and women not needing to work as hard in their classes to get the same amount of success. This inversion of the truth frustrates me, and is one of the reasons why I think I stay away from a lot of the groupthink, "nerd," bro culture of engineering and chose to receive my undergrad outside of the CoE. At the same time these individuals were complaining to me (and also frequently harassing me), I was basically tutoring them for the freshman engineering physics class–funny how that is.

  3. Edagimo says:

    Hi Ishi! I thought your post was pretty interesting and also slightly disturbing. It's especially interesting to me because I don't often get along with other men very well. I tend to but heads with other guys, which has always led me to have friends that were girls and I'm more comfortable in interviews with girls as well. It's really interesting to me that in the field there is such a heavy bias towards males hiring males, especially now days where the female work force and work ethic simply dwarfs the male work ethic in general. I've noticed either at school, at church, or at work, that women, at least of my generation, work harder and produce better results than their male counterparts (who I have seen have a heavy reliance on video games and a tendency towards laziness). Once again, I'm definitely generalizing, There are definitely exceptions on both sides to these points I've made, but hopefully the hiring agency in industry will notice the hard work the women are capable of bringing to the industry.

Comments are closed.