During one of our many admitted student programs at USC, I was leading a group of prospective Chemical Engineering students on a short tour of a biomimetic phase lab. When I asked if anyone had any questions about life at Viterbi, one of the parents commented on the distribution in our group. Out of a group of 8 prospective students, seven of them were girls! Though I don’t think this is exactly the ratio at Viterbi, I do know that there are a lot of women in engineering here. And it’s awesome.
My high school was strong in math and science, and there were actually lots of girls in my classes. In fact, sometimes I think the girls outnumbered the guys (particularly in AP Biology and AP Environmental Science)! Even with this, I mostly hung out with guy friends through high school, so I wasn’t too nervous about an expectantly skewed class ratio. I came in thinking I would have engineering classes with only a few girls, but I have never encountered this. All of my classes have had such a strong percentage of women! It is definitely nice to have such a balanced ratio.
So what does it mean to be a women in engineering? I think in the world outside of Viterbi, it’s a big deal. Companies understand that we bring a valuable perspective to the workplace, and many of us are good leaders with excellent communication skills. When I tell family or friends that I am a Chemical Engineering major, they are usually very impressed! But in Viterbi, being a woman in engineering is certainly celebrated… but it is not uncommon. There is support available through the Center for Engineering Diversity and the Women in Engineering programs, but I don’t know anyone who has had trouble adjusting to engineering classes for this reason. On my floor alone last year, probably half of the girls were engineering majors, which just goes to show how many girls chose to major in engineering here. I am even living with two of the girls from my floor who are engineering majors too! And next year, I am living with another two girls in engineering that I met this year.
When I joined Ultimate Frisbee my freshman year, I didn’t think much about the majors of the girls on the team. After a while though, I realized that we had a HUGE percentage of engineering girls on the team. I noticed this same phenomenon happening in a lot of the other clubs I was joining as well. Sometimes, you don’t even meet girls in engineering through Viterbi events, but through other common interests! We have such a diverse group of women in engineering, and many are spread across different clubs. But it is nice to have that common #ViterbiSwag going on as well.