Tag Archives: STEM

Alexa

Where to start… I live in a relatively safe neighbourhood so it feels horrible that I can’t even feel safe walking down my street. When I was 13, I was walking my dog with my younger sister when a group of boys came up to us and told us to give them our money or they’d rape us. I was so shocked that I just froze, but I didn’t give them anything. I am very protective of my younger sister so when my instinct kicked in I told them that they didn’t understand the seriousness of what they had just said and that. they were just trying to show off in front of their group of friends. They walked away. Another day, I was walking home in my school uniform and a man cat-called me on my street. I now can’t feel safe even outside my own house- I’m constantly pulling down my skirt and looking around me and constantly worrying about being touched in crowded spaces. Fortunately I feel secure at school because it has a feminist reputation yet I am absolutely SICK of being treated differently in social and academic terms. When I told my brothers, they said I was exaggerating and just wanted attention. They’re not even adults yet and it breaks my heart that they have already been conditioned like this as children. My relatives have made it clear that they believe my brothers are smarter just because of their gender… they raise their eyebrows when I say I want to study sciences because ‘girls aren’t as good as boys in maths’. They’ve said this to my face. The worst thing is, events like these have happened to most women I know. I’ve been hurt by sexism and I’m not even an adult yet. These things exist and it is so important to share these stories and recognise their importance. To any men that might read this, I’m asking you from the bottom of my heart, not only for me but for millions of other women, please please please hear our stories. Educate yourself about sexism. Be mindful of it and recognise that all your female friends have to face it. And please, when you see an act of sexism taking place, whether it be a misogynistic joke or a sexist comment even if there aren’t any women around, please call it out.

N

I have recently been baffled by a professor X saying to me “I am really doing my best to encourage women to pursue a career in science, but it is really hard. I’ve started thinking that maybe it is just something in the women themselves. I talked about it with Y and we’re pretty much on the same page.” I’m noting here that both X and Y are white, middle class, male full professors, but that I consider especially X to be a very nice, kind and helpful man. I explained to him all the reasons why I think what he said is BS. However, I do not think he has changed his views. And I wonder: if this man, of all the academics I know probably one of the fairest, nicest and most helpful, thinks this way – how are we ever going to make a change? And how do I convince the man otherwise?

Scientist / Engineer

While I was at University, a colleague from my sponsor company, in a superior postion to me, tried to rape me while on a work trip. I said no, he didn’t hear me, I said this is a bad idea, he told me he couldn’t have kids, that it was fine, I said about his wife, he said it’s fine. I couldn’t get away but fortunately for me, my fight response kicked in, I punched him and swore and kicked and yelled and felt so angry and violated and how dare this person try to take something from me without my permission, I wanted to kill. I was very lucky, someone heard me yelling which meant the person had to leave and couldn’t do anything else. I had a fight response out of fight, flight, or freeze (you don’t get a choice it just happens). Both of us had been drinking when this happened, that doesn’t make it okay and it does not stop it from being attempted rape. I said no, they heard and didn’t care, continued acting for what they wanted anyway. When I talked to my friends about it, most of them told me to go to the police to get the bastard. Enough of my male engineering friends/ colleagues that I talked to said, what was I playing at, I could hurt this guy’s career; he could lose his job just because I couldn’t make my mind up; that I needed to get my act together; no one will believe you anyway; it’s your fault, stop being such a little bitch. Now, I know they were wrong. At the time having been immersed in the sexist, derogatory, backwards culture I believed at least some of what they said. I didn’t report it, I told very few people after that and I essentially had a year of battling between trying not to feel anything and trying not to kill myself because the anti-depressants I started taking damn near made me do it. I pulled my shit together, what the nice counsellor I saw several years after, as the mental health support in the UK is wank, told me is called post traumatic growth and have my docotorate and a successful career in STEM. My attempted rape was less than 5 years ago, I still experience sexist shit most days. Engineering is one of the worst sectors for it and if you’re not willing to keep your head down and let the toxic culture be, then prepare for it to be all the worse. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting! I probably did experience sexism and microaggressions when I was at school, I seem to remember being called a dyke and fat and remarks about my large boobs, but it didn’t really bother me, because I was very lucky that my parents had raised me to believe that I was amazing and it was my body, my rules – no one else got to make me feel bad about it. Unfortunately, when I moved to University and then into work I had a very different experience. I was in a far less liberal part of the UK and most of the compliments I received were along the lines of: that’s a good set of tits to get you in here; lucky you’re not like us, cis white men are the new underprivileged; ah, you’re just like one of the lads really; to name a few. With this culture change I began to slip into habits that I would now say threw my own gender under the bus for the sake of belonging. I thought I really felt I belonged that I could be myself completely, until university or work socials happened and I experienced sexual harrassment multiple times, mainly in the form of bum pinching and groping, colleagues would try and get me to have sex with them and when I didn’t want to they’d try to persuade me and keep touching me, cornering me instead of letting me walk off. Through all of these experiences I began to believe what was spouted back by the group of male colleagues that I talked to, ah you had one too many; ah they had one too many; no harm done; nah it’s not weird, just blowing off steam; god, you’re slutty; lads lads lads. It just became part of the status quo. When at university the gropers included staff, at least one of whom had a wife and children. When I outline it like this it sounds obvious, in your face, but it wasn’t. It was insidious, subtle and daily and it was the culture that likely made that attemped rape possible, it definitely made me so unconfident in the system that I couldn’t report it until almost 2 years later. When I did, no one wanted to know.

Cara

I am a computer science student at a UK university. To give you an idea of the ratio, there are 32 girls and 224 boys in my course. I have had lecturers make jokes on maths getting girlfriends, lude images (and even pornography) posted on the group chat showing women in a vulnerable position, people suggesting female lecturers should be sucking dicks, male lectures using ‘he’ when someone gets code right and ‘she’ when someone gets code wrong. The one time I had a female lecturer, the boys in the group chat created a ‘thirst count’ where points would be added every time the lecturer made them ‘thirsty’ for her (i.e. laughed) or one of them tried to flirt with her. In this group chat the men use nicknames like ‘titty titty bang bang’ or ‘milks his mum’. 6 months ago I tried bringing this up with the university. The he/she lecturer, instead of making a promise to not do this in the future, instead asked me to go through 24 hours to lecture feeds to find the specific time it happened, then tried to tell me he was drawing from a real world example. When I tried to report the pornography pictures anonymously, an email was sent out about appropriate behaviour on group chats and two people were called into an office and told not to do it again. In my opinion, this is not enough. I confided in one friend that I reported it and he told me I should have told the students reps it was me because they were nice people and ‘they’ll probably be okay with the fact you reported it’. Even though the group didn’t know I reported it, this was the response of the chat: ‘Guys honestly this is disgusting – whoever snitched – grow the fuck up. If your life and personality are so sad and boring that you get off snitching on someone because of a picture I pity you. Honestly people like you make me sick.’ The group chat name was also changed to ‘Snowflakes Anonymous Year 1 Racist Meme Shitposting’ in retaliation. I’ve tried to fight back. I really have. But when you hear this every day and no one does anything about it, it wears you down. I’m not looking to make the next big scandal, I just want to finish my uni course without losing my mind. Hopefully you now have a better insight into what it is like to be a female computer science student.

Claire

Just watched a segment on BBC news about girls taking Maths A levels. The reporter has a woman and a man in front of her, the man is a teacher and the woman is a representative from an initiative to drive womens participation in STEM subjects. Reporter asks woman why she thinks womens participation in such subjects is poor. Man steps in and answers the question for her. Straight away. There’s your fucking answer!

Mariah

For the past year, I’ve worked at a tiny tech company in small, east coast city. I’m the only female full-time employee, and the only one in tech. I was hired as a content writer but I chose this job because while my then-recently-earned college degree wasn’t in IS or computer science, I had discovered an interest in (and aptitude for) programming and my hiring manager told me I would be able to work on small dev stuff eventually. Cut to about 10 months later and our (very poorly-performing mediocre white dude) UX designer is laid off. My manager, overall a very cool dude confident in my HTML/CSS/JS abilities, offers to let me do our previous UX designer’s job for a big upcoming project. I’m thrilled, but the only caveat is that nobody outside the dev team is allowed to know I’m doing the work. You see, his boss -the president of our 10 person company- would flip out if he knew a woman was doing anything REMOTELY resembling coding. For the past two months I’ve been doing two jobs (and whatever stupid girl-Friday type task the company’s president throws at me on a daily basis) while male devs on my team get praise for my work. My boss says he’ll tell the president that I did the work after it’s done and our client likes it. That way the president won’t prevent me from finishing my work. The dudes in my company- including my boss- hate that the president treats me like a bimbo secretary, but everyone is unable to do anything about it. Oh, and I get paid a fraction of what my predecessor made. I never believed that women today still experienced this kind of sexism until I took this job. I’m more stressed than I can remember, and I took care of a terminally-ill family for four years while in college.

Vanessa

A while ago my boyfriend and I were at my house along with some of my family, and we were talking about some appliance or something that could be improved upon. (Context: my boyfriend and I go to an engineering school, although he doesn’t actually study engineering, he studies math, while I DO study engineering). One of my aunts looked at my boyfriend and said “maybe you could fix this!” It completely shocked me, and I don’t think anyone else even noticed. This was literally the first time she had ever talked to my boyfriend, and she assumed he would be the one to fix something. She’s my aunt, she’s known me her whole life, and most importantly, *I* am the engineer. I study and work on the practical applications of math, physics, and chemistry, while my boyfriend studies math theory. It’s things like this that make me doubt whether I could ever be a good engineer.

Lauren

I’m a third year PhD researcher and was also working on a grant for my university for a similar topic as my PhD. I was asked to speak to some computing classes at a nearby college. I explained that I wanted them to ask questions whenever they arose and asked again for questions at the end. After class, as I’m packing up, one student approached me, told me I was wrong about many aspects of my presentation (a topic I’ve read hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and books on) and that I should “really do my research”. He then left without giving me time to respond.

Kat

I never really thought about it when I was younger, but in the past five years I attended a government simulation that empowers young women to be leaders, to make a change in their communities, and I subsequently became a counselor there. And it was when I became the protector and advocate for these 16 and 17 year old girls that I sat up and took notice. Now I see and experience little things everywhere. I study mathematics, and when I tell people, they automatically ask me “oh, so you’re going to teach then?” I am vastly outnumbered by men in my field, and had one male friend tell me he was surprised at my intelligence because the fact that I was outspoken and energetic told him I was flighty and vapid, because women mathematicians are solomn and silent. I have had male professors who tell the women in their classes to marry rich, that they are defined by whether or not they are married, and that they can find love “despite being too tall or too smart or too loud” because women belong at home and not in STEM fields. Every day my friends and I have to fight twice as hard to be heard and respected, and it wears me down.