By: AYANA LOVE
As statistics have shown, women are the minority in the field of engineering. A Western Michigan University student has had her experience in sticking out among a room of men.
Rachel Perron, WMU senior in engineering, said everyone’s experience will be different depending on who you are talking to. Perron has been studying electrical engineering for four years.
Western Michigan University has student population of majority males, according to Start Class statistics bank . With over 1,724 students applying to its College of Engineering and applied sciences, WMU accepts an average of 85 percent of its applicants. Twenty-eight percent of those are accepted into the program; a small fourteen percent are female. In the work place an average salary for woman engineers is $2,000 less than a man’s, according to the ASME foundation.
WMU’s STEP program manager Anetra Grice says that The Society of Women Engineers is pulling the university’s percentages up when it comes to women in the field.
“We are ranked 31 [out of 242] of all qualified universities with women engineering faculty,” said Grice. Last year, the STEP program increased its numbers by 18 percent for female enrollments. From the way women communicate by nature to the relation between smarts and looks, societal norms may play an influential role in why women may not go into the field of engineering.
“Most people will think that the issue we [women] run into is with our peers, but no, it’s more with the not-so-obvious stuff,” said Perron.
Perron says she believes the problem has everything to do with how a person was raised to think.
“The way that women and men are naturally wired, there are automatically going to be barriers. Just in the different ways that women think and move,” Perron said.
Professor Lois Lemon, professor for chemical and paper engineering of the applied sciences college has been teaching graphic printing science at WMU for 20 years, and said she has witnessed the growth of trends when it comes to a woman in the different disciplines of engineering.
“In the beginning, because there weren’t many women in classes you kind of stood out, but now there’s more than 50 percent of women in the college of engineering and applied sciences here at WMU,” said Lemon.
With only twenty-eight percent of WMU’s students in the engineering college, 14 percent are female. This number is continuing to grow, according to Lemon.
“I wouldn’t say the journey was troubling, but you definitely noticed that you were a minority,” Lemon said.
Lemon said that women weren’t viewed as having a place in engineering and were thought to conform to society’s ideals of what a woman was supposed to be.
“It used to be a common place where you would go into a print shop and you’d see the half-dressed girls on calendars and posters,” said Lemon. “My friends would get real mad about that, but I would get mad if the printing was done poorly.”
Todd Marriot, a WMU senior in engineering, said that he is seeing more women taking an active role when it comes to the heavy lifting in the industry.
“If I have any advice to incoming male engineering majors, it would be, don’t judge a book by its cover,” Marriot said.
Marriot said that he noticed sometimes his female classmates would get more push back from male professors.
“I have seen it, more so with professors, looking down on the female students, acting as if they didn’t have a place,” said Marriot.
Perron said because she is female, her words didn’t seem confident to her professors.
“I would come across as not knowing what I was talking about rather than my professor just hearing me plainly say I’m pretty sure that’s the answer,” Perron said.
Grice said that The STEP program is a really great community outreach method to pull in more diversity to the applied sciences college.
“I believe women feel more comfortable when we actively engage with them and they know that this college isn’t just some boy’s club,” said Grice.
Grice says that if you create a community, these girls know they have support.
“I find it that women with any major, may feel that if they get a bad grade its not the right choice for them, but men say they will get it eventually,” said Grice.
Ronald Banks, junior WMU computer engineer major, said he can see where the idea comes into play that women shouldn’t be in engineering, but doesn’t think females should be treated different.
“I think it’s just ego. Traditionally in older days women are supposed to be home cooking and cleaning, while the man goes out and brings home the bacon,” said Banks. “To think that a woman could possibly do my job better, I will admit, it’s intimidating.”