I still get looks of surprise when people ask me what I’m studying and my response is that I’m a chemical engineer. These shocked expressions are typically followed by a series of questions such as the following:
No, what are you really studying?
What’s it like to be a girl in a field so strongly dominated by males?
But you’re in a sorority?
And frankly I don’t get it. Why is it so hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that not all engineers are males? Why is it so difficult for people to grasp the fact that I am in a sorority and in Viterbi. For some reason, the two aren’t supposed to go hand in hand. But they do. So I’m here to address those frequently asked questions.
1.What are you really studying?
I am in fact studying chemical engineering. In fact, most of my female friends are also studying chemical engineering, and about half of my year in my major is female. I’ve loved science since I took my first science class in elementary school, and I’ve loved chemistry since I was first exposed to it in high school. I’ve always been fascinated with math, and I spent the majority of my childhood building things with my dad and grandfather, both of whom are engineers as well. It just made sense.
Yes. Yes really.
3. What’s it like to be a girl in a field so strongly dominated by males?
Honestly, in my entire time as an undergraduate in Viterbi, I’ve never gotten the sense that the school is heavily skewed towards the male gender. In fact, sometimes when I’m walking around Viterbi or doing work in the engineering quad, I get the sense that there are more females than males. I sit on the executive board for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and 7 out of 8 executive board members are females. In addition to clubs and organizations within Viterbi that revolve around specific majors, the Society of Women Engineers is a very dominant force on campus, and it does a fantastic job of putting on workshops and networking events specifically for females in engineering. Finally, I have never felt like my opinions or observations in an engineering classroom, club, or research lab have been disregarded because I am a female. In Viterbi, females and males speak with an equal voice and do an equal share of the work.
4.But you’re in a sorority?
Yes, I am in a sorority, and I know a lot of other engineers who are in sororities as well. In fact, most of my friends in my sorority are also engineers, and it’s great. Being in a sorority is by no means necessary, but I’ve found it to be a great resource during my time as an undergraduate. Recently, in fact, another sorority hosted an event for Greek engineers to network with SpaceX.
Being a female in engineering is absolutely fantastic, and I have had nothing but positive experiences as my time as an undergraduate in Viterbi!