Having partaken in a few pro-feminism classes as well as many discussions of feminism, there were a lot of answers I expected (“Sons are better than daughters, etc.”) but I was particularly struck by this answer:
“You only got those offers because you’re a girl.”
This sentence was stated, apparently quite harmlessly, by a male to his female friend who was studying computer science. Gender stereotypes exist, and I have a feeling they will always exist, but statements like these are the worst when they are said by someone who doesn’t mean to offend, but honestly, truly believes them.
The other day, someone said to me along the lines of: “You don’t have to worry. You went to Stanford, you’re smart, and you’re a girl programmer.” While it was flattering that he called me a programmer (I like to think I’m more of a learner right now), I was a bit irritated that my being a girl appears to play a role in my success. I’m not going to argue that places like tech companies don’t try to actively hire more girls in engineering, because I know for a fact that they do, but I will argue that there is something wrong with the mindsets that are created as a result.
Men, and probably women too, end up feeling like girls have it ‘easier’ — but that’s not what upsets me. What upsets me is that as a result, when someone meets a female engineer in the field, what is going to stop him from thinking: “You are not as intelligent or as capable as men.” Many would assume that her being a female gave her a major advantage, instead of assuming that she truly is intelligent and good at what she does.
In the end, it boils down to developing “impostor syndrome” where women in engineering feel like frauds, like they don’t really belong there, like they’re not as worthy as the men around them. What do you think? When you see a female engineer working at a successful company, what do you assume about her?
To all the women who feel or have ever felt impostor syndrome, take a look at Malaysia’s culture, where women in computer engineering make up 50-60% of the industry. In Malaysia, computer programming is seen as very woman-friendly, and every woman is seen for her success and her intelligence, not her gender.
Let’s teach the rest of the world the same.