I honestly teared up a little bit as I was reading this awesome story.
Talk about a motivated girl! Way to defy the odds!
Best of luck!
After reading about the LEED-Certified Architect Barbie Dream Home, I decided to do a little investigating on this “I Can Be” Barbie campaign. Talk about fantastic. It essentially is a line of dolls based off real career tracks - Computer Engineer Barbie was even selected from online voting. Imagine the implications - the majority of people who participated specifically wanted Barbie to be a programmer!
For me, this is great timing. I have been struggling between balancing my identity as both an artistic person who likes fashion and discussion and a person in the CS world. I don’t personally know anyone else like me, which can be rather isolating. Although laughable, its nice to know Barbie - a childhood icon - can do both.
I have really struggled with my identity during my college training. Sometimes it can be easier and more fun to be the techy tomboy - jeans, weird tee-shirts, little makeup, laughing along to the off-color jokes my peers make. Sometimes that is how I like to express myself.
However, I also know that I love fashion. I love art. I love ethics and philosophy. I love religions. I love philanthropy. And I love discussing equality, privilege, and what shapes our media. Many of the people I know in CS do not know this side of me.
Sometimes I feel weird wearing a dress to CS classes. I fit in better when I don’t.
Part of finding where “Maggie” fits in with “Programmer” and “Engineer” has been through getting to know other girls in my field. Part of it is in asserting my femininity with friends like Colton and Kolby. Part of it is explaining my techy-side with smart, sassy, lady-people like Glenna and Marissa. Part of it is through my own, private discoveries. Most of it is through communicating with other people about all the things that fit together to make ourselves.
And how did we communicate with other people about what makes us ourselves as children? By playing pretend or mimicking games - whether it was playing cops & robbers, or with doggie toys, or with pretend swords, or with Barbies.
There were some comments in the articles I found about if the best opportunity to introduce young girls to technology fields is with a Barbie doll. Will kids even care? Will it really impact kids to pursue such a field?
I don’t know if this was typical with young girls who played with Barbies, but I know that when I happened to get one with a laptop as an accessory (it was Mari, from the Generation Girl line), I used that thing in every single game.
I definitely had games with web-page designers, hackers, bloggers - usually it was with my Mary-Kate Olsen doll, because she was definitely my best one.
Lesson is, when given a techy accessory for Barbie, I used it constantly. Intrigued by technology at a young age, being able to bring that into pretend games with dolls fostered my interest.
Just because little girls play with Barbies doesn’t mean that they will always grow up to be image-obsessed. Chances are, a majority of young women my age today in the U.S. played with a Barbie at some point in some way. I’m not saying Barbie is the ideal toy for kids, nor am even I promoting the brand, but if there’s going to be a toy that breaks down barriers, why not Barbie? It seems apparent to me that everyone underestimates her because she’s blonde and extra-feminine.
Girls’ toys are so filled with princesses, weddings, clothes, and unicorns that its nice in any situation for a doll to have something more realistic like a laptop, a cell phone, and an adorable pair of glasses. This can only be a positive thing.
And you can bet that when I walk into the office my first day of work in my first post-college job, I will have one of these guys sitting in my cubicle to inspire me.
For more articles discussing Computer Engineering Barbie, please look at these:
I was going to save this particular snippit of my life for a different time, but I just had to talk about it now.
Usually, despite all my wishes for more, the people I spend time with in my major are quite nice. The few guys that I do know are friendly to me, and most everyone is chummy in class. I point out many of the social faux-pas of my professors, but not one of them is malicious or rude. Although it can be uncomfortable sometimes not having any fellow lady-friends in my major, most of the guys I know are true pals, as you can see:
I have not experienced much sexism towards me except for the small quip now and then concerning the color pink or Hello Kitty or something equally asinine. I consider myself quite lucky. Today I experienced the most extreme sexism I have faced from a fellow student - and although it is still extremely mild in comparison to the injustice others around me face, I was still caught completely off-guard.
I was talking with a fellow student that I’ve had in several classes and even done some group studying with. He mentioned how he was not looking forward to the rest of the semester, because of the dry readings and analytic papers we’d be doing.
I said to him I was excited. As I’ve written before, I had mixed feelings about starting a semester with only CS and Math subjects, as I’d grown to enjoy the reading and writing from my WGS and English coursework. The fact that my classes include research readings and discussions and theoretical concepts made me glad.
He sighs dramatically and says “I’m sorry, but that’s because you have a vagina. Girls are good at writing stuff, and guys are better with math, science, and stuff.”
I’m sorry, what?
Since when had my sexual organs had anything to do with my interests or aptitudes? That is such an old-fashioned outlook, and now is purely an uneducated view on the reasons behind females scoring lower on standardized tests in maths. Studies show that young children all score approximately the same on math tests, and differences are not because of gender. One big reason why girls continue to score poorly on math and science exams is because they’re told they’re innately bad at it. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy called stereotype threat.
Yes, its a real thing. And you, sir, just perpetuated it.
Also, by the way, I’ve been able to accomplish every math and computer science assignment at least as well as you. How else did I get through all these classes and pass like you did? Does that make me a male or something?
I don’t think that what’s in my pants should have anything to do with whats in my head or in my homework assignments.
And guess what? Whats in your pants doesn’t matter either - just because you have a penis doesn’t mean that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card on learning communication and writing skills. You can’t just leave that to the girlies to be secretaries for you. Its not the 60’s anymore.
It pretty much ruined my afternoon. I felt awful, and my opinion on this person definitely plummeted. If I have to deal with his nagging on me about having cooties or how only girls are allowed to have Katy Perry songs stuck in their heads, that’s one thing. No one else seems to have to deal with this poking and prodding about being a wimpy girl, but I assume its all in good fun.
If I have a person tell me to my face that they believe I can’t possible be as good at my chosen career path as he could be because I am a female then there is a serious issue.
However, then my mood was cheered by the first Associate for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter meeting and all the camaraderie there. I sat with a few of my friends in the major, we chit-chatted, and I talked with the president of the club afterwards about these weekly programming contests they’ll be hosting.
As I was talking with these guys, I felt like we were talking as peers, and it had no impact who was what gender.
Just what I needed!
I guess it just became more real to me that there is still sexism, and that I am bound to face it in my life and career. It is encouraging to know that despite the occasional bozo, most of the people I know like me for who I am and trust in my skills as I prove them rather than in expecting little from me for being a girl.
For more information on ACM, be sure to visit the ACM website:
For more information on stereotype threat, here are a few articles on the subject:
At my university, Computer Science is an extremely small department already. There’s maybe 60-70 students total in the program, and we have about 6 faculty members. Computer Science is easily the smallest department in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. During budget-cuts at my university, our program had to be absorbed into the Electrical Engineering department instead of being its own department.
Our course options are extremely slim. Most classes are only offered once a school year except for the very crucial classes - introductory classes, data structures, capstone classes, and the like. Also, a lot of our class offerings are defined by the skills of our faculty members. One of them has his own little iPod game company, so he teaches a virtual worlds design course. Another teaches the course in data mining because she has the most experience in that field out of all the faculty members.
Already I knew that my favorite faculty member was leaving to pursue work in his own company. However, I found out today that two more of our faculty members have resigned. That’s practically half of my entire faculty gone!
This can have so many negative effects on our department, both in terms of quality of education and in accessibility of help and support.
With three faculty members leaving - all with their own specialties that they pass on to future students - there is no way that the course availability will remain the same. Additionally, with fewer instructors available to teach, its likely that the already sparse class sections will reduce in number. There’s already at least four mythical course options in the curriculum that haven’t been offered in years, and now its likely that more classes will become unattainable like these.
Of these three departing faculty members, the lone female faculty member I so wanted to befriend is among them. This leaves me as one of the three or four girls CS majors without any women who have made it in the field to look up to.
Obviously, I’m quite concerned about where this leaves me and my degree progress. Not only are we one less woman, but now its quite possible that more of our already limited class offerings will be cancelled. Heck, one of the faculty members leaving was already set up to teach my Web Programming class.
Last Friday, SWE participated in the first carnival that NAU has held, called the Spring Fling. Our group decided to do a water balloon dart game, with knick-knacks for prizes. I offered to help man the booth at about 6 pm.
To me, I felt like this would be the perfect way to get to know some of the girls in the club. It would be a fun situation, laid-back, and probably a good opportunity to chat and stuff.
The most recent club meeting made me really enthusiastic to get to know these girls on a higher level. I’m not sure how to explain it, but everyone was so lively and goofy, and it felt almost like a group of friends spending time together rather than a professional organization. It made me really interested to participate as much as possible!
Unfortunately, I show up a little late for my shift at the carnival. Not only was it murder finding a parking spot, I’d gotten maybe 8 hours of sleep in the two previous nights and was not as on-top of things as usual.
When I got there the group was already packing up!
I was able to use my car to help the SWE president move some of the boxes back to her dorm since she’d broken a rib, and I still got participation points for helping even with that much, but I totally missed a golden opportunity to get to know these girls - my peers - before the semester ended.
I’m still pretty bummed out about that, but hopefully over the summer I’ll stay as interested in SWE as I have been and become even more motivated to spend my time on this organization when the fall semester starts.
if I once again hear them saying “fuck”, “dick”, “penis”, “blow job”, “pussy” or any of those varieties. I’m trapped in a class wherein I’m the only girl and the guys are being extra crude around me. WTH. If they make any more suggestive comments, I’m killing them.
Sucks to be the only girl. They’re freaking bullying me. -____-
Its stuff like this that really hurts to hear.
My usual reaction to this kind of behavior in my classes is to ironically play right along in hopes that my underlying dislike for the rude, isolating language will shine through. There’s usually a lot of me calling other girls “babes.”
I still feel really lucky that my friends in my CS classes are usually rather polite around me, but I know that this is probably not the norm. The worst I get are jokes about me listening to Katy Perry without any basis in truth and some awkward comments about how they won’t show me the girl on their desktop wallpaper.
Keep on workin’ through it, sister!!
I’ve official enrolled in the fall semester, which will be the first semester of what could have been my senior year, but is technically my junior year now that I’ve dedicated my heart to the time-suck that is studying engineering.
My subjects will be automata theory, software developing, ethics in CS, web programming, and linear algegra. To be honest, I’m only sure of the content of maybe half of my courses. I’m only familiar with the content that I am because I wikipedia’d all of it.
There’s no way this fall will NOT be a tough semester, but hopefully it will also be a good one.
I keep hoping that the more upper-division courses I enroll in, the more likely it is that I’ll meet a girl to befriend. I’m sure that this blog is starting to sound like a whole lot of me wanting gal pals, but I really do wish to find a person of my gender who shares my same love of programming. Hopefully I can find someone more similar to me this next year.
While preparing for enrollment, I kept thinking about what my life would be like if I had remained a Hotel & Restaurant major like I had initially started as when I began college. I’d be preparing to graduate next year, probably planning for an internship this summer, but I wouldn’t have experienced as much to make me question gender and what girls are allowed to like.
Would I have learned other things about these subjects? Would I have found another passion? I probably wouldn’t have had as harsh an experience in being the lone girl in my field. Would I have figured that lesson out another way?
One thing’s for sure - I wouldn’t have met Colton, and I probably wouldn’t have let myself appreciate my logical side as much.
Still, I do sometimes feel huge senses of doubt in myself. Taking so many CS classes just feels like I’ll be doomed to fail. Some small part of me keeps waiting for me to discover that somehow I’m AWFUL at computer science and that I was foolish to even try it. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the place for me and that I can do just as good as any of those dudes, but every semester I am still unable to feel fully confident in my abilities as a programmer.
I bet I won’t trust in myself as a CS person even when they hand me my diploma.
At least that is something that is commonly shared between all my friends in CS - we all experience just a precarious sense of confidence, the sensation that each of us is teetering over failure.
Depressing, yes, but quite unifying.
Guess who won the tee-shirt design contest?!!???
Yes, my design for our chapter of SWE was the final winner for the tee-shirt contest. I am so stoked that my design work is good enough to print on dozens of shirts to be sold! This is a huge achievement for me!
Apparently, though the design was deemed too ‘feminine’ and there will be a second design to be made to be sold to the guys. I kindof found that a little surprising, as I don’t think my design was so girly. What was so girly about it? There’s a single heart on it?? Are guys not allowed to wear hearts or something?
Rant aside, if they decide to do a two-genders thing I’m hoping I might be able to sneak my way in and modify my current design for the guy’s shirt.
Either way, I’ll definitely buy one, or maybe several.
One interesting thing about today’s meeting was the gender distribution. There were only about six girls minus the leadership, but there were four guys.
FOUR WHOLE GUYS.
At the last meeting there was probably about 12 girls and two guys.
When I first saw all of them, I was a little surprised. They sat farther away from the girls, and they seemed like they felt out of place. They didn’t really seem interested in contributing much. Two of them, who must have been friends, whispered to each other for most of the meeting.
At the end, I realized some professor offered extra credit for going to the meeting. Probably won’t seem them again.
There’s going to be a university-wide Spring Fling carnival event that I’m going to help table at, which should be fun for several reasons!
Hopefully, I’ll feel a sense of community in helping promote this organization, and I also think I’ll enjoy the opportunity to bond with some of the other girls who’ll be helping. I feel like this kind of thing is just what I need to own this experience in SWE. I’m really excited to get involved in this club.
Stepping up and participating in every event possible makes me really excited for my future in this organization.