When I first decided to study Electrical Engineering, a lot of people asked me if I was worried about going into a “male-dominated field”. I wouldn’t say that I was ever “worried” about it, but I did expect it to be a huge adjustment after being a Theatre major, where I was lucky if even 25% of the class was male. Going from classes with mostly girls to classes with mostly guys seemed like it would be very different. I was worried that I would be treated differently by the guys in the class, or that I would have to try to prove that I belonged. But the reality of Electrical Engineering is nothing like those issues that I imagined coming in!
First of all, I have many female friends in engineering. I also have many male friends in engineering. In my experience, gender has made no difference. Engineering is certainly not the “boys’ club” that some make it out to be. Secondly, I can say with certainty that I have never been treated differently in my classes because I’m a female in a field that is majority male. To say that there are tons of women in Electrical Engineering would be inaccurate, but there are definitely way more women than I imagined there would be. And to be honest, although I objectively know that there are a lot of guys in my classes, I’ve never really noticed or thought about it much because it has never negatively affected me.
The Viterbi School of Engineering has a lot of women but, just as with any engineering school, there are going to be areas where the gender ratio is a little skewed. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I’m very involved with the SC Underwater Robotics Team. When I first joined, I was so worried that all the guys thought that I was dumb or didn’t belong there. But after a couple months I realized that my self-consciousness was all of my own making and that none of them felt that way. The guys made me feel like part of the team, and even though I’m one of only two girls on the team, I’ve ABSOLUTELY NEVER felt disrespected because of that or treated differently. In fact, we just held elections for the leadership for next year a few weeks ago, and I was voted the Team Captain, which is kind of like a Chief Engineer position. I love hanging out with all the guys (and the other girl!) on the team. In my experience, being a woman in engineering is great!
A lot of the women engineers at USC are in SWE (Society of Women Engineers). I have a lot of friends who are part of that, and it’s a great organization that does a lot of industry networking and fun social events. But I’d also like to say that you absolutely do not have to be part of SWE if you are a woman in engineering here. It’s not like all the women have their own society separate from the guys. There are guys in SWE and some women, like me, aren’t part of it. So if you do want to be part of that, it’s a great resource and a lot of fun, but as a woman I’ve felt completely accepted and comfortable outside of that organization too!
The truth is that from my point-of-view being a woman in engineering is a complete non-issue! People in my classes and people I have worked with don’t care about gender, they care about what you have to say about engineering and the projects you are working on. That’s what I love about engineering and the Viterbi School and that’s what makes being a woman in engineering so great!