As I started to write this post, the first thing I exclaimed to my roommates around me was, “Wait, I don’t have much to say. I never have felt any sort of stigma being a woman in engineering…at least I have never noticed it.”
Being a woman engineer was never a surprise to my family or friends. There are a couple reasons this came to be. First off, most of my immediate family is an engineer. I have grown up around names like LG, Fujitsu, IBM, and Microsoft. I grew up thinking that being an engineer was no less “unique” for women as it was for men. I grew up seeing that my mom was just as capable as my dad at work, even though she would stay home to take care of me.
When my parents first asked me what field I wanted to pursue, I told them I wanted to be a doctor. While they were proud at my proclamation of this noble goal, this surprised them a little bit. They thought that I would naturally want to be an engineer, because I grew up around it, but more importantly because I was really strong in math. They made more of an effort to explain to me what engineering really was, thinking I may have steered away from it because of my difficulty in JAVA class my freshman year of high school. They would try and tell me what their jobs were like and how secure of a life engineers lead. While I still held my desire to be a doctor, my engineering-heavy surrounding started to affect me. I realized studying Biology, Chemistry or Physics alone was a bore in high school and I needed some sort of way to give those topics a little spark. This is how I came upon my decision to be a Biomedical Engineer. As I started to visit engineering schools, I started to notice tour groups mention their Male:Female ratio, or women engineers discuss their experience as a woman in the school. This is when I became completely aware of this stigma and the magnitude of it. This is when I first felt realized I could not take this for granted– I felt privileged to have been able to grow up being oblivious about this whole subject.
In my two years at Viterbi, I have never noticed or become self-conscious of the fact that I was a woman here. It has always felt natural and I know this is something I can’t take granted for. I think being a Women In Engineering is different that being a Women in Biomedical Engineering. I feel that because I am taking more pre-med classes than engineering ones, I have not noticed any great disparity between men and women in the engineering world. Even when I was looking for BME internships, I felt that the chances weren’t higher or lower for me because of my gender. I have been very appreciative of being a women doing engineering at Viterbi because I feel that it specifically fosters a diversity on many levels. As I have mentioned in my other blogs, one of the main reasons I decided to go here was because I felt that you could not tell an engineer apart from any other USC student, every engineering student had such diverse interests that no stereotypes could categorize Viterbi. In the same sense, no stereotype really categorizes women engineers at Viterbi.
Personally, being a part of Associated Students of Biomedical Engineers, I have been inspired by amazing women leaders. I have never felt like I have been alone in this journey especially with the support I have been provided. There are clubs like Society of Women Engineers and AOE who focus on supporting women engineers specifically.
Male or female, every person in Viterbi is there for the right reason- because they have a common interest and goals, and similar ways of thinking and problem solving. I am very happy with my experiences as a woman in the school and look forwarded for those to come.