Tag Archives: feminism

Equality in Engineering

Right down to the chants

People are under the impression that engineering must have been hard for me, being one of few women.

The chants, for example, are notoriously “inappropriate” – the most famous and widely shared being a song about Lady Godiva. (See a fuller, albeit tailored version, by MIT)

But we women were given equal opportunity to be just as rude as the men. We wrote our own chants and they were just as inappropriate and just as funny… for everyone… regardless of gender… and no one celebrated rape.

The UBC Sauder School of Business is reeling from recent revelations about Frosh being taught chants celebrating underaged rape.

Naturally, the university has separated itself from the student chants and suggesting the business school teaches rape is absurd. BUT, before dismissing this as an isolated incident, the school needs to consider the possibility of an underlying divide between “suits” and “skirts”.

The culture of engineering is often assumed to suffer gender division. I made that mistake when I first went to work. I fell into the trap of dressing like my male colleagues, thinking being “one of the guys” was the only way for me to fit in.

I imposed that gender division on myself.

In the end, I finally realised there is no outfit that a rugged pair of coveralls can’t neutralize! I could wear a skirt if I wanted to and still visit sites, climb ladders, and harness myself to scaffolding. I was just like any man who wanted to protect his  3-piece suit, while out in the field.

Reforming the way we view and treat gender does not need to sterilize our differences. I like wearing skirts. I know how to do my work regardless of my attire, just like Swedish train drivers.

They donned skirts to beat the summer heat in protest to their employer’s ban of shorts.

They can do their work better when they are comfortable, and that was worth fighting for. (We have quite a way to go in accepting gender as a continuum rather than binary categories-the shorts ban was quickly lifted.)

In Engineering at McMaster University, I was treated as an engineering student. Nothing else. When I went to work, I had to relearn that. My colleagues didn’t parse me out as a female engineer. They let me decide how to define myself, and they accepted me for my work, not for my anatomy.

I’m not much of a “rah-rah engineering” graduate, but…

Gimme an “E”! Gimme an “N”! …

Live within limits without limiting life

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Shift the gender paradigm in engineering

Studying for my second-year psych exam and I’m forced to read yet another article on gender differences. This one was slightly more balanced, as the authors considered social influences alongside neuropsychological evidence and the effects of hormones, but as I sit here, a licensed female engineer retraining for a new career, I think they missed the mark.

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What a Bitch

I’m reposting a piece I wrote last year about the film The Iron Lady. It seems I’m not alone in my assessment:

Margaret Thatcher died today, but never shall her legacy.

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Psst! She may not know it but…

She inspires me to write. Psst! Thank you Louise.

She raises my faith in myself. Psst! Thank you Carolyn.

She pushes me forward. Psst! Thank you Laurel.

She protects me. Psst! Thank you Janice.

She listens and confides. Psst! Thank you Jenn.

She brings me peace. Psst! Thank you Agnes.

She brings me joy. Psst! Thank you Sharon.

She grounds me. Psst! Thank you Karina.

She teaches me to love time spent in my kitchen. Psst! Thank you Steph.

She loves me unconditionally and gives me space simply to be. Psst! Thank you Freda.

She brings the best of my past into my present and future. Psst! Thank you Nicole.

She makes me count my blessings. Psst! Thank you Lucene.

She humbles me. Psst! Thank you Janet.

She opens my mind to other ideas. Psst! Thank you Lisa.

She opens my heart to new experiences. Psst! Thank you Iris.

She quiets my mind so I can listen. Psst! Thank you Michelle.

She gives me a voice so I can sing. Psst! Thank you Bec.

She teaches me love. Psst! Thank you Tanya.

She teaches me compassion. Psst! Thank you Pam.

She works hard, then lets go. Psst! Thank you Meredythe.

She makes me laugh. Psst! Thank you Ally.

She never looks back and has no regrets. Psst! Thank you Ruth.

She shows me how to share my passion. Psst! Thank you Astrid.

She teaches me to be brave. Psst! Thank you Donna.

She lives simply as I aspire to do. Psst! Thank you Dhakshi.

She is patient and I try to be too. Psst! Thank you Heather.

She reminds me to roll with whatever life throws at me. Psst! Thank you Natalie.

She exemplifies strength. Psst! Thank you Melissa.

She is independent. Psst! Thank you Allison.

She is teaches me not to fear my own voice. Psst! Thank you Emily.

She holds my heart and it grows every time she laughs, cries, asks, screams, and even sleeps. Psst! Thank you Rhiannon.

Live within limits without limiting life

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So here’s the thing, sometimes girls just want to do girlie things, as some studies on newborn monkeys are starting to illustrate. I was a child of the 70s, and went to elementary school in 80s, when feminism transitioned from theory to practice.

Feminism at that time focussed on opening opportunity for women. “Anything boys can do, girls can do better!” was the triumphant call to all little girls. The fervor of the campaign was fierce. So fierce, that they not only forgot about choice and equality, but they railroaded them. Continue reading

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