Yesterday in my Cultural Politics of Broadway class, while studying “Rent”, we started talking about this idea of “ the burden of representation”. Basically this is when one person has the burden of representing a minority group within a larger community. The community typically makes its assumptions about the group based on the way the person with the burden acts. My professor then turned to me and the two other female engineers in the class to use us an example, saying that females in engineering often carry this burden.
This statement got me thinking. Are females in engineering so generic that one person can represent the whole? Are there so few girls in engineering that we even have a burden of representation? Do I carry this burden?
And the more I thought about this, the more I realized my answer to all these questions was no.
Engineering is often thought of as a “man’s major”, but throughout my first year in Viterbi, one thing has become obvious to me—this is not the case here at USC! Although the ratio of females to males in my Viterbi classes has not been one-to-one, Viterbi does have more female engineers than the national average, and when there are almost as many other females in my classes as there are males, I don’t think any one of us carries the burden of representation within the engineering community. Within Viterbi, the Society of Women Engineers is a great organization for women in engineering to support each other throughout college. SWE has a big-little program in which an older girl gets paired up with a younger girl and serves as her mentor throughout college. Viterbi women always have each other’s backs!
I also don’t believe we have a burden of representation within the USC community as a whole. Walking around campus, no one can identify who is a Viterbi girl based simply on her looks. I’ve come to realize that females in Viterbi are involved in as wide a variety of activities as females in any other major. I remember my first day of my Engineering Freshman Academy class when we all introduced ourselves. I quickly learned within that one class of 30 engineers, around 12-13 of them being females, the girls were involved in activities varying from Viterbi organizations to dance companies, volunteering to sports, student government to Greek life. Viterbi females are represented in each and every aspect of USC life.
I’m always incredibly proud to tell people that I am a part of a group as diverse as the Viterbi women are, and I cannot imagine my USC experience being nearly as incredible as it has been if I were not a woman in engineering.