Q&A: Have you ever encountered problems/discrimination as a woman in a STEM field?

So far, I haven’t encountered huge problems or blatant discrimination but, throughout my years in school and then later also during my doctoral studies, I have come across remarks thrown my way related to my gender and it gets tiring really fast. As you can imagine there weren’t many of us girls specialising in mechanical engineering so teachers often felt the need to point out when we did well in class/on a test and also point out that we were girls, as if those were supposed to be mutually exclusive. I had one teacher who felt the need to always ask me, in a very creepy way, just what did I do to manage to get top grades in 3D modelling class even though I was a girl. I wish I could say that I confronted him about his attitude but I just dropped his class and made sure to avoid him for the rest of the year. Later on, when I was the only woman on the team for a project, others felt absolutely fine joking about things such as my always being able to babysit the kids when the group went out for drinks, etc. Eventually I learnt to stand up for myself and make it clear that those kinds of jokes were not really jokes.

Over the years and at my previous jobs, I also grew frustrated with the fact that all my bosses/supervisors were men, their bosses were men, etc. Even though there were nice powerpoint presentations about how they were making an effort to have more women in top spots, I didn’t see it happen on the ground. I won’t lie, part of the appeal of my current job was that my supervisor and her boss were women. Of course, if looking at the institute as a whole, there are still more men than women at as group/unit leaders but it feels different to me!

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