As a member of the female species, it can sometimes be challenging to commit to a predominantly male major, such as Computer Science. “What? Are you serious? I didn’t know you were interested in such things!” “Computer Science is for boys!” “Wow, you’re the first Indonesian girl in Green River to ever major in Computer Science,” “You’re joking, right?” No, I’m not guys; I’m not joking.
Yesterday, the Who Are We? Women workshop was held by the TLC (Teaching Learning Center), and I had the honor of representing the international student population. Before yesterday, I have always felt different–constantly surrounded by boys and all that–but I’ve never really contemplated about it deeply. Is there really gender discrimination in science? I have never really experienced any major forms of discrimination (at least I don’t think so), but apparently, some studies have showed that there actually is discrimination. I mean, think about it. Most CEO’s are men, and women, up to now, still earn less pay compared to their male counterparts, even if they received the same degree in the same university.
So if that’s what happens in the workplace, what about in college? I had a conversation with some of my classmates the other day, and we concluded by saying that, “Yes, there is gender discrimination,” but not in the way that you would think it affects females. Instead of being a disadvantage, it is actually an advantage for us girls. Now, this might not be the right conclusion/assumption, because after all, we are just a group of teenagers just having a casual conversation, but we all did agree on the same thing.
Being one of the few girls (or maybe the only girl) in class makes you stand out from the crowd; it makes you stick out like a sore thumb. Because there are so few girls, our professors recognize us faster, and we are given more attention. I never realized this until now, but I guess it’s true. In one of the Computer Science classes I took, sometimes, when we are working individually on our own programs, my professor would check up on me and ask me how I’m doing. In my Physics class, I feel that at times, my teacher is more helpful towards the girls than towards the guys. One of my classmates even said that, “I’m so jealous! He’s so nice to you girls!” I personally just see this as a nice gesture, because I guess there’s this belief in society that men have to be more polite and kind to women. However, looking at it the other way, some people would say that it shows how the male professors underestimate the female students, and thus, the teachers feel that the female students need more help and assistance.
Now, for everything in life, there is always an advantage and a disadvantage. The drawback to this is definitely being written off too soon. Just because I’m a girl, some of my male peers think that I’m not as good as them. However, as far as I know, there has never been any researches to support this assumption.
All in all, as a girl, I feel really disheartened to see that women still receive lower starting salaries, and that people are still biased towards women. I mean, who knows, maybe the girl next door could be the next Einstein. You never know until you give that person a chance.
PS: I came across a very interesting article talking about gender bias in science, it’s worth the read.