By Jess Feldman
Gender discrimination is an issue that people deal with on a regular basis around the world, in America and even here on campus.
In politics, the topic of gender discrimination has come up a lot recently due to the current presidential election. Republican nominee Donald Trump has been called out consistently for his commentary regarding Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her ability to succeed as president.
In a recent Humans of New York post, Clinton recounted an incident from her college years that had an influence on the person she is today. While Clinton was about to take a law school admissions test at Harvard University, she was verbally attacked by a group of men who were in the room.
The men said things such as, “You don’t need to be here,” and “If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.”
“So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room,” Clinton wrote. “I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk.”
Many women on campus feel that the issue of gender discrimination is prevalent in our community as well.
“I’ve never felt looked down upon in engineering, but there’s definitely a sense of isolation that comes with it,” junior mechanical engineering major Sadie Isakower said. “A lot of people you interact with don’t know how to react when you tell them your major. I’ve had women judge me pretty harshly for being different, and lots of men just be completely shocked I picked something so ‘challenging.’”
This university’s engineering school has a separate program dedicated to promoting the role of women in the engineering field. While the program assists and encourages women to pursue engineering, in the fall of 2015 only 23 percent of undergraduate students and 21 percent of graduate students were women, according to the school’s statistics.
Like Isakower, junior computer science major Julia Pennington also has had many experiences where she felt judged because she was a woman.
“I was told by my peer that ‘guys are just better at computer science than girls because the field was completely made by men so women’s brains don’t understand the thought process as well,’” Pennington said.
She also shared that at her internship this past summer, she was paid less than her male counterpart, even though they had the exact same position.
Pennington acknowledged that some people will always make assumptions based on gender, but she believes girls in computer science “continue to have to face them and work hard despite that.”
As of last fall, the percentage of female computer science majors from the incoming freshman class was 16 percent, making the male percentage a high 82 percent. According to the department of computer science website, this number has increased by just 3.4 percentage points since 2013.
While gender discrimination is an issue in both engineering and computer science, it also exists in other fields at this university.
Graduate student and English department staff member Danielle Renee Griffin feels as though she must meet a higher expectation to prove that she belongs in graduate school or academia.
“There have been many instances where professors or other male graduate students have talked down to me, assuming that I’m not as smart or as well-read as them,” Griffin said. “Consequently, I often have to work to prove to others that I am ‘smart enough’ or ‘qualified enough’ to be involved in academia. It creates an additional emotional burden, and it can also affect your self-worth when so many people are assuming that you’re less qualified because of your gender or because of how you look.”
On a global scale, women have become more involved and included in the labor force; however, there is still room for improvement. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, between 1966 and 2013 the overall labor force participation rate for women rose from 31.5 percent to 48.7 percent.
Per the United States Department of Labor’s most recent data, 57 percent of women participate in the labor force.
Although students and professors on campus face challenges of gender discrimination on a regular basis, they understand that improvements are being made and continue to push themselves harder to achieve their goals.
“For each bad story, there are so many more good ones,” Pennington said. “There are several strong communities and groups that support women that both guys and girls are active members of. When people say things about our gender, most girls I know just eye roll and then work harder to prove them wrong.”