“I’m a female engineer. So what!”

 This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl.  

— James Brown

I got a straightforward but powerful answer from Ivy Wang, a student in USYD, after the question — how do you feel when you were asked for the reason of choosing your current major. But before the talk, things went a little dramatically.

I was woken up by a message alert at 1 pm. It was Saturday, as well as my lazy day.
The messages said, “I’m on the train. See ya later! — Ivy.”
I was half awake, rubbing my eyes, sitting up and staying in a daze. It suddenly occurred to me that I got an interview with her today. Totally forgot. I still didn’t figure out how I finished all my get-up routines within 10 minutes and rushed to the bus station.
Luckily, I was already in the café and got a cappuccino for her when she arrived.

She came to Sydney three years ago after completing high school in China. She is a young girl, like others. But she becomes ‘more popular’ when people hear her major; civil engineering. When it comes to engineers, the first picture popping up in people’s minds should be professional men wearing uniforms and helmets with tools and sketches in hand. So a female engineer like Ivy definitely arises their interests.

I feel like a celebrity surrounded by paparazzi, they throw a series of questions at me to satisfy their curiosities.

The reason she is choosing this major is simple. Interesting. This is the only word that she offered. I tried to ask for more, but she gave me a smile and then sipped her coffee. Such a diva. It is annoying when people keep asking you the same question, but it is understandable sometimes. Professions like the engineer are dominated by males, while females are supposed to work as nurses, teachers or housewives. Most of us may have similar experiences: the elders like parents designate what a boy and a girl should be like. This actually came from the existing gender stereotypes for making divisions for men and women.

Why do we have gender stereotype? (Video: Aurelie Wong)

Gender stereotyping is defined as overgeneralization of characteristics, differences, and attributes of a certain group based on their gender. Referring to the term, Ivy put down the cup and dissed this outdated “badass.” She held the opinion that things like engineering might be mostly done by men in the past, but it did not show the infeasibility of women. Only after allowing women to try could the world realise that women can do the same things. The difference between sexualities could only be found in physiology.

The number of girls in my class occupies 30% to 40%. Every study group consists of 5 to 6 people, including 1 or 2 female members. Yes, girls are still less than boys. But no matter for courses studying like bridge modeling or mathematics, or the close ratio of HD assignments last year, everything tells that girls can be qualified engineers too.

I cannot agree with her for more. Although people have called on the gender equality since the end of the 19th century, not all of us accept it psychologically and ideologically. Taking Ivy as an example, some people still find it unusual for a girl to be an engineer. The reason behind those questions they ask is the gender stereotype they holding in mind. Deborah A. Prentice and Erica Carranza from Princeton University introduce that it is closely linked to traditional social roles and power inequalities between women and men. People have already got used to seeing men ruling the world, playing leading roles in the majority of industries, and taking more social responsibilities. But they forget that it was not that long ago we were living under the matriarchy.

It is true that maleness is determined not only by the job itself, but by occupation, subfields or professional specialties, academic fields, and function and level within an organization. But women should also have the rights and opportunities to try and make their achievements. The history has proved it for multiple times, and that is why we learned Marie Curie’s breakthrough in primary school. However, sometimes women look down on themselves.

Girls should participate into more works, instead of feeling inferior to their male competitors. When we are doing projects or having filed trips, girls do whatever boys do. We carry bricks, digging holes, and monitoring data altogether. When it comes to structural analyses, girls even do better. And one more thing, I found boys lacking enough communication skills.

Ivy showed me a proud-to-be-a-girl face, keeping enjoying her coffee. I was glad that she liked it. She is one of the most confident girls I have ever met. Unlike her, many girls or women see themselves as so-called “vulnerable group”. They have urges to do things, but they do not have encourages and confidence to commence them, or to set up a high standard during the process.

One study shows that women’s self-ratings of expected task competence did not at all differ from self-ratings of individuals who had actually received negative feedback about their task ability; the only situation in which women’s self-ratings equaled men’s was when they had received direct and credible positive feedback about their ability. Females should have an awareness of their power, influence, and ability. Beyoncé has taught people a perfect answer for the question of who run the world.

Before Ivy finished her coffee, I asked her one last question: what did she think about gender stereotypes now?

The key point is not about the gender. the most important thing is to try your best to achieve the goals you make. no matter you are a man or a woman.

“ So do you think you will be an incomparable engineer?”
“Will be? I am.”
“Okie-Dokie. Then may I have the honour to have a dinner with you, Ms incomparable engineer?”
“Of course. On me!”
“Really?”
“I should show some respects for the elder. That’s what mama said.”
“……”

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