On a quiet Sunday night, I happened across a Gateway article published on Feb. 23 titled “UBC pride burning shows hate, needs to be addressed,” written by Sofia Osborne. Interested in hearing news about another institution from my own school’s paper, I was intrigued. I’m bisexual. I care about gay-rights across Canada but especially at our institution. What I read shocked and angered me. It wasn’t the fact that someone had the audacity to burn a pride flag during an important week, or that events were cancelled due to security issues. I was shocked that suddenly engineering students, my home faculty, were being compared to this atrocious event.
Engineering students have a bad rep. It was earned 20, 30, 40 years ago. Things have changed. The culture is different. In fact, the entire demographic is different. U of A Engineering has about 20 per cent female undergraduate students. These young women happen to overrepresent themselves in leadership and involvement roles in clubs, and more importantly in the faculty association, The Engineering Students’ Society, or ESS. Negative stereotypes are a direct insult to the women in this faculty that work so hard every day for their peers.
Statements like “even more of a boy’s club than it is today” are ignorant of the positive change that has taken place in the faculty. These changes have been taking hold in the past few years and I am proud to be in a faculty of students that appreciate diversity and reject misogyny. I challenge whether the author has any real knowledge of what it is like to be a student in this faculty or whether she is continuing to perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
This type of ignorance and judgment are the same types of problems that the LGBTQ+ have combated during their movement and I find it ironic considering that’s what the article was supposed to be about. For the most part, these stereotypes are only harmful to us on campus. They sour our reputation with the Dean of Students and make it harder for us to fight accusations against us (GEER Week 2015 anyone?). They fuel rivalries between faculties which makes collaboration more difficult. What happens when articles about these stereotypes get picked up nationally in professional magazines? What happens when people carry these ideas out of the school when they graduate? It harms the profession and it harms the students.
Scapegoating a certain group of people is a dangerous attitude, because it allows others the luxury of escaping blame. The righteousness that’s associated with pointing fingers is what perpetrates systemically discriminatory practices.
Engineers like to solve problems. We’re not afraid of asking hard questions, attempting solutions, and iterating over and over again until we get a right answer. We know that our Faculty and profession faces challenges, and we are trying to solve it. How do I know this? Because I’m actually a woman in engineering. In fact, I’m President of the Engineering Students’ Society, engineering’s Faculty Association. Out of ten senior executives of the ESS, six are women, including myself. What appears to be a boy’s club to you, is in fact, my club. By using me and my peers as statistics to make a point, the opinions presented invalidate my presence and experience in engineering.
According to the author, Lady Godiva created fear among women in engineering. However, I can confidently say that the women in engineering are no longer afraid. They are smart, ambitious and most importantly, they are bold. They know they belong here and they don’t need anyone to tell them otherwise. The boy’s club is now being run by women and it’s only improving from here.