Monday, March 30, 2009

Outnumbered? So what?

Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

It's true: it's a male-dominated faculty by the numbers. So how will this affect your university life? How will you make friends, and fit in amongst your classmates? It's really not a problem.. just ask any female engineering student, and you'll find that there are tons of outlets to meet other girls (and make friends with your male peers as well!).

In my Software Engineering class, out of just over 100 people, just less than ten of us are girls. Sounds pretty scary, huh? Not really... I promise!

Starting your first year of Engineering as one of the few females in a large class can be intimidating, but don't let it affect you. It's really an asset to be one of the few women. Just being here, in the first place, allows you to stand out from the crowd. Many females are drawn to other fields, and the stereotype may make people believe that women aren't suited for something as "difficult" and "scary" as being in an Engineering program, so just the fact that you made the decision to pursue Engineering (and got accepted) means a lot. People recognize that, and respect you for choosing a field you're interested in, rather than going along with the crowd.

There are tons of events and organizations that you can join to meet other female Engineering students, including Orientation Week, Women in Engineering, and EngSoc events. University is a chance to break free from the high school life and become anyone you want to be. You're free to pursue countless new interests, join clubs, teams and societies, and yes, make new friends along the way.

During the first week of lectures in my first year, my class was electing Class Representatives for the term. I didn't know anybody when I entered the program, but met a small handful during Orientation Week. I'm not sure what got into me, but when they asked for anyone who wanted to be considered as a candidate, I stood up in front of 100+ strangers to plead my case. To my surprise, I was elected a Class Rep! Taking on that position allowed me to get over my fear of speaking in front of large groups. I was also able to meet dozens of my classmates and made friends with many of them. I became well-known in my class as I sent out informational e-mails about upcoming events and received class feedback regarding issues to be addressed. Almost 2 full years later, I'm still a Class Rep. It just goes to show, even the smallest decision can make a world of difference.

Long story short, being a woman in Engineering isn't scary. It doesn't have to isolate you or make you feel out of place. It's truly an awesome experience that I wish more women would pursue. The things you learn, the people you meet, and the community you become a part of are all things that will stick with you for life, so make the most of it. :)

4 comments:

  1. Awesome post! I agree completely that there are tones of opportunities on campus - there's really something for everyone and I think its great to encourage people to break out of their comfort zone and try something new!

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  2. We are 5 girls in a class of 65. And we dominate the guys actually!! :P

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  3. After the first couple of weeks of first term I no longer noticed the gender ratio. I knew what it was (I calculated it during those first couple of weeks), but except for when someone asked if there weren't many girls, I never thought about it.

    I took a women's studies course last term for a non-technical elective (we have to do those to be well rounded, it's required for any engineering programme in Canada). After taking that course, which talked about how few women were in engineering and science, I became a lot more aware of how few women there were in my classes.

    I wouldn't even say that the complaints raised in that course are true - I've never known anyone to feel seriously left out for being a woman in the class. Nor is there an inordinate amount of pressure to be "one of the guys". Most of the women are, but the ones who show up for class in makeup aren't ostracized.

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  4. i love this what an engineer looks like blog and it makes me happy to see cool content like this every then and now from you. keep doing what you do best and have fun.

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