Female Engineers By Rola Hassoun

According to the Office of Institutional Research Assessment, roughly 16% of the UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering students are female. This means, the College of Engineering is 84% male! This is not surprising considering the social and institutional barriers that drive younger women away from perusing majors in the sciences, but this is particularly interesting when discussing discrimination within the College of Engineering.

As a female engineering student, who has experienced multiple cases of discrimination while attending a different institution, I have not experienced discrimination from my professors or administrative staff at UMass Dartmouth. I have a profound respect for the College of Engineering on this campus and I have always felt that I was treated the same as my male peers. However, my male peers did not feel the same. Over this past year, many of my male peers have suggested that professors have favoritism for female engineering students. Many of them believe that Engineering professors are more lenient with grading and are more “easy going” with the females in the class. I asked several of the male students why they felt this way and the cumulative reason was “girls are just obviously treated better and professors like them more. They give them better grades because they feel bad for them. Prof. A is a creep and likes girls and Prof. B is a female so she likes girls.” This is when I realized that many male students in the College of Engineering have NO IDEA about the challenges that female engineering students face. Maybe, the entire campus community may not see the full story when it comes to our female engineering students.

I am the average female engineering student. I was discouraged from majoring in engineering by family members. I was discriminated against in the classroom. I was told, by an advisor, that I was not capable of succeeding in the engineering field and that I should switch to an easier major. I face daily assumptions that I am not as capable at performing well in my major by my own colleagues. I was sexually harassed by my supervisor when I held a student research position. I have never used my gender to get my way. Female engineering students are always facing challenges that don’t just come as homework problems and exams. They are facing a world of societal discrimination and occupational oppression. They are more prone to situations involving workplace sexual harassment, wage discrimination and class room discrimination. What many people may not see is that, along with the struggles of everyday life, female engineering students face the challenges of choosing to fight the norm. They are tearing down barriers for future generations of women. They are proving that even though your male peers might believe you are being favored, UMass Dartmouth College of Engineering consists of very capable competent women. These are women that study hard, work harder and achieve their goals because they deserve it. NOT because anyone is giving them a free pass.

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