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[personal profile] shermarama
(Because of course having broken the oh-I-haven't-posted-anything-for-ages barrier I can now stick something short up without having to think about all the other things I was going to put up)

“I’m so glad to meet an engineer,” she enthused, “all the other women I talked to here were in marketing or law or something. I thought it was meant to be about IT.”

Which is the story of a woman who works in computing going to an event designed for school-age girls to meet women who work in IT, which covers one large reason I generally stayed away from all the Women In Science And Engineering events. They were mostly full of women who didn't really do science and engineering. (The other is that I really don't like being told I should socialise, network or otherwise bond with particular people just because we're the same gender, rather than because we've got something that's important to us in common. (Maybe lots of women have 'being a woman' as something important to them?))

I can't remember why I was looking at something involving QMUL's WISE group a few months ago, but I discovered that the main people running it were two sociologists and a sound artist, which, you know, I don't care what technology you use to make sounds, it's still being done for the purposes of art, not science or engineering. Generally in the past if I've wanted to talk to people who were actually enthusiastic about science and engineering, I've talked to other people who are studying it or working in it, not people who enjoy going to events which are based around the sociology of women in science. I don't have a problem with people who have an interest in the sociology of women in science, I'm just not very interested in it myself, or at least much, much less interested in it than I am in actual science. But, I'm really not keen on the people who do that being taken as, because they declare themselves to be, representative of women working in science and technology.

This article, though, makes me wonder if I should start going to events like this after all. If I think these sorts of events ought to go away because their unrepresentative cross-section makes them more of a barrier than an encouragement, perhaps I should make the effort to make them more representative? To break down the barrier and let some girl who's still at school know that it's not all sociologists and lawyers? Or maybe, you know, we should stop telling schoolgirls that women going into science and technology still need specialist support networks to do so?

Date: 2013-04-26 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When I was in sixth form and thinking of applying to Imperial to do CompSci, I stayed overnight in their halls on a 2-day WISE course thing. It was enjoyable enough (if a bit threadbare) and made me feel better about studying CompSci in general, but as pretty much everyone else on the course was incredibly posh and wanted to do medicine, it 100% firmed up my opinion that I did not want to go to Imperial.

Date: 2013-04-26 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If 'incredibly posh' put you off Imperial, why not Oxford? Perhaps I got it wrong by going for an interview at St. Hilda's, but nowhere else has anyone ever told me to 'oh, go on, say something. Your accent is so quaint!'
Edited Date: 2013-04-26 10:24 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-27 06:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ack its sad you didn't try Oxbridge and afaik other colleges such as wadem are much better

Date: 2013-04-27 12:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I did try Oxbridge, as in I had interviews at a couple of colleges, but didn't get any offers. And then I went to Durham, and transferred to Sussex after a year because I was fed up of being one of the Novelty Non-Posh.
Edited Date: 2013-04-27 12:35 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-27 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hah, this is something of a sore point! I was dead set against Oxbridge for ages! But my (good, but not posh) school organised a trip up to Ox on a sunny summer day, hardly any students about, our teacher being v careful to cherry-pick our college visits to get a broader picture of things. My best friend (who now has a Phd in Biochemistry) was sold immediately. Another of my best friends (in the year above) had already accepted a place. There'd be at least two 'normal' people there... so I applied.

But I still wanted to go to Bath! My Mum, my teachers and even my interviewer for the Bath CompSci course said I'd be better off at Oxford if they offered me a place. I eventually caved in, went to Oxford, made three sets of friends almost entirely from state schools... and nearly failed my first year, upon which Mum said 'maybe you should have gone to Bath' and I was VERY ANGRY with her. I prob would have dropped out then (my boyfriend at the time did!) if I hadn't been enjoying the social side of things so much. I hated most of the (highly theoretical) course and it put me off programming for a long time.

Date: 2013-04-27 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I did tours of the various universities with my likewise good but not posh sixth form college, and I wasn't sure about Oxford but it seemed less poncey than Cambridge, and since it seemed I ought to apply to one or the other I picked Oxford, but then I wasn't really that bothered when I didn't get an offer, especially after the interview experience at St. Hilda's. (I don't think I'd even considered Imperial. All the London places seemed to merge in to one from up north, and not a particularly special one.) So I went to Durham, because that was notionally the best (or most Oxbridge-like) of the ones I got offers from, and there was someone else I'd been vaguely friends with from my sixth form college doing Physics there too (incidentally a girl; two out of the ten women on a course of 150 or so were both from an old mining college in Wigan) so we both had that minor head-start on friends, and then we found ourselves a bunch more 'normals' to be friends with. (Easier because our college had very helpfully put anyone Northern, state-school or otherwise non-posh in the small block across the river from everyone else.) But although the non-posh were there if you looked, and there were several reasons I left Durham after a year, at least one of them was that it was tedious being such a sidelined cultural minority there. Durham was full of public-school types who weren't bright enough to go to Oxbridge but really wanted to cling on to a boarding-school-esque environment, which just turned them even more hideously stereotypical, I think.

Anyway, I think I would have done better at my first time round at university if it wasn't for the tremendous reverence there is for Oxbridge and its wannabes. It's not always the best place for people but there's this thing that says they're the best so you have to try. Ho hum.

oops wasn't logged in

Date: 2013-04-27 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can understand contextual meetings
I am dyke I like to meet other women who also fancy women thats why i go to for example dyke bars
If i was working in the tech industry it might useful to meet other engineers who get classified based on their gender because of the powerful effects of that classification - but ultimately thats about politics
I like hack spaces - I like the cultural spaces - so I spend time there and try to get them going - but I would only meet about gender related issues in a hack space if there was sexism going on and even then I doubt it would be a single gender meeting
the reason I like you isn't because your a woman
ok it has a bit to do with you being a tall powerful cute woman but afaik you're str8 so blah
Your interests in music and tech and engineering is actually why i kept chatting to you etc
I assume that true for most people if they think about it, but then my assumptions about others not reliable

Re: oops wasn't logged in

Date: 2013-04-27 12:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I mean I can see there are reasons to meet other women specifically in some circumstances, but - and I'm not saying this is anyone else's experience, only my own, and maybe I'm just too thick-skinned to notice or something - I've never felt I've suffered from ill effects of gender classification while working in science and engineering. So I can't really bond with anyone over it.

And of course I have no problem with being friends with someone who happens to be the same gender while being interested in the same things as me... it's just that I don't count being the same gender as in interest in itself, whereas I wonder if it is more of one for some women.
(Incidentally, I'm bi. I suppose it isn't something that comes up much these days.)

Date: 2013-04-27 08:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think WISE type events are very variable. We have some really good ones where we are all engineers and scientists and talk about how we could change things for the better and inspire each other. And then it all turns into talk about babies and maternity leave and I sit there feeling like I'm not a real woman anymore because I'm sitting in a WISE meeting and I have nothing to contribute. I've met some really good people through it though. I think the Sheffield one is helped by us having such an enormous engineering faculty that can fill a room with the 10% of engineers who are women.

And then there was my mentor who came out with this gem:
"You're really lucky to not have any ties so you can go anywhere"
Yes, she knew I got widowed. To my credit I did not hit her, nor throw food.

Date: 2013-04-27 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can see the bonus of the networking opportunities in a situation like that, when it's a handy way to pull a cross-section from a large and diverse group. I think that's just not been my experience whenever I've gone to these things myself. And also, as someone who doesn't think I've had problems with sexism myself, I'd find it hard to discuss what could be done differently.


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