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Letter to the Editor: STEM

By Jared Mauldin, Contributing Writer

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To the women in my engineering classes:

While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.

Sure, we are in the same school program, and you are quite possibly getting the same GPA as I, but does that make us equal?

I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science.

Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills.

In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.

I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine.

I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender.

I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the “diversity hire.”

When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it.

So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.

Sincerely,
Jared Mauldin
Senior in Mechanical Engineering

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43 Comments

43 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: STEM”

  1. Lenora Farrington-Sarrouf on October 7th, 2015 1:28 pm

    Thank you for this. I’m so glad I went to a women’s college with a strong engineering department where we get a four-year reprieve from all that.

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  2. Sandra Sheldon on October 7th, 2015 2:49 pm

    Bravo Jared! Hopefully you will have the joy of raising children who will grow up to be what ever they want.

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  3. Stephanie on October 7th, 2015 3:37 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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  4. Sherry Marts on October 7th, 2015 6:31 pm

    Jared – I’m 59 years old and I got my PhD in physiology more than 30 years ago. Thank you for this. You have reduced this tough-minded old feminist to tears.

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    Rick Castro Reply:

    Thank you Sherry and Jared. I too was a physiology major and as a shy coming-out gay male also felt the subtle sting of discrimination. I like you still consider myself an old feminist liberal.

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  5. Jason Turner on October 8th, 2015 2:36 am

    Re: Jared Mauldin’s “To the women in my engineering classes”

    Will someone please buy this man a large serving of whatever he would like to drink?

    I my wife and I are both engineers, and he has hit the mark perfectly. It’s awful that it’s true, but we’re pleased with how well he’s written that truth.

    Stay honest, brother.

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  6. Lynne Lebron on October 8th, 2015 4:28 am

    I can’t begin to tell you how inspiring it was to read Jared Mauldin’s letter to the editor addressing his female engineering classmates. As a female engineer 30 years into my career, I can tell you the struggle is real.. Jared clearly gets it and this inspires hope for the future. Thank you Jared.

    [Reply]

    24chwile Reply:

    true ” hope for the future ” Lynne 🙂

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  7. Mo on October 8th, 2015 5:43 am

    Thank you! I had some pretty cool and understanding fellas in my honors physics courses and a very supportive team during my masters work as well, but few would’ve been able to come out and articulate it like you did. Kudos. I hope one day you have daughters! 🙂

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  8. AnonymousCoward on October 8th, 2015 9:08 am

    I respect the intention of this post because I acknowledge wholeheartedly that there is a massive injustice being done towards women in how we as a society treat them from a young age onward. It’s clear to me that there is gendered socialization that occurs which is in large part responsible for why women overwhelmingly avoid STEM education and careers. That said, I think it’s somewhat disingenuous to account everything to gender from either side of this equation. In particular, it’s this statement of yours which might reflect your experiences but definitely do not reflect mine: “In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.” I think this statement is most likely both a reflection of where in the country you grew up and the time period you grew up in.

    So, let me share a bit about my own experiences growing up as a young boy interested in computers and who liked to read books in the Midwestern US during the 90s. See, I was constantly bullied for my interests, my appearance, and the general idea that (still to this day) pervades Midwestern culture that doing anything either for work or fun that doesn’t involve physical labor as a male makes you lazy, weak, and useless. I grew up in a world which disdained the idea that a boy might want to sit and read a book for pleasure or that there was any real value into what could be done with a computer. Books were for girls and computers were for nerds, real men played sports, hunted, and fished.

    I made a lot of mistakes in how I reacted to these mistreatments and frankly I only had a successful outcome in my life for three reasons:

    1) I escaped by throwing myself even more into learning about computers, the Internet, and reading books, thus providing a strong motivation to self-learn a deep technical skillset.

    2) I had good adult mentors and role models in the form of my dad’s cousin who worked in technology and a recently graduated CS major who worked in the IT department at my school.

    3) Last, but certainly not least, my father had a background in mathematics and some interest in technology so enabled me through access to technology at home, access to reading material, and working with me when I was very young to get me started.

    I nearly dropped out of school to become a burnout despite the encouragement of my mentors because of the things I endured. I have permanent physical injuries, not to mention my own share of mental health issues as a result of my treatment. Despite all that, I managed to graduate high school (barely), and go to college, although I ended up dropping out of college before graduation.

    What I suffered was in part due to society’s gender norms and how they are impressed on children, but it was much more so because of a culture of anti-intellectualism that pervades the US, especially in non-coastal regions. Having described my experiences, I strongly acknowledge that women who grow up in non-coastal regions have to face both the same anti-intellectualism I experienced plus strong gender expectations that would guide them away from technology as a passionate pursuit. What I think differs most though is that many women do not have strong mentors growing up, especially mentors which encourage an interest in technology. It’s important that it starts young, and almost every program I see around women in technology starts far too late to have any real impact. I was taught the basics of using a computer when I was four, the basics of programming at six, and encouraged by my mentors to cultivate my interested in technology for most of my life. If we had programs to mentor elementary-school aged children and teach them technology I think we’d see a very different world in 20 years.

    I respect the purpose of your post, but there is far too much rhetoric on the issue of women in technology that centers solely around gender. I rarely see anything that discusses the differences in upbringing that people have, even within the same genders, and how that affects them. There’s this attitude that men somehow had everything handed to them. Maybe that’s true now for men who are in your generation, but the only reason that is so is because of men like myself who suffered through bullying, buried ourselves in tech, persevered, and then helped build the technology empire that exists in the US. For millions of young boys, if they’d told their peers, teachers, or even their parents that they wanted to be a computer programmer in 1990, they’d be discouraged, ridiculed, and mistreated. In 2015, I expect they’d be lauded because the profession now has an aura of respect, some mystique, and a pretty much universal understanding that you are paid well which brings with it a status and respect in society that simply didn’t exist when I was growing up.

    While those who are just now graduating college and entering the workforce make up a good chunk of technical workers, those of us now in our 30s make up an even larger chunk. We were the pioneers who created and weather the first dot-com boom, brought the Internet into the mainstream, miniaturized the computer, and mainstreamed mobile technology for the generation you’re in. I think it’s important to understand this, because it also relates to the issues women face in technology. It’s the very reason why people entering the workforce now are surprised by a deep “geek” culture in the tech industry, where many people are introverted, evasive, and obsessive about their hobbies. Many of these people shared my experiences and escaped into computers and other classically “geeky” hobbies to get away from the way they were treated growing up. The fact is, most women do not share this culture so it’s seems alien and hostile, and many people who have a less colored upbringing (especially “business types”) don’t understand this either. It’s seen as something that is dangerous, should be stamped out, and as a direct cause for inequalities in the industry. But it’s also something that brought these disparate groups of people together to build this industry, and there should be a little understanding and respect for the experiences of those in my generation and how it differs from today.

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    Lamarr Stevens Reply:

    Maybe it is because of my name, but I just didn’t experience this world. I am a female Industrial Engineer who never felt like a woman in a man’s world. I grew up as a daughter of an Air Force Officer and always felt encouraged to pursue my favorite subject which was Math. I received accolades, awards and encouragement. I attended Georgia Tech where I was in both a sorority and little sister in a fraternity, and actually it was the fraternity where I received more encouragement (though I dated and was later engaged to someone not at GT the entire time I was there, so it wasn’t just flirting). I was hired by a fellow GT Grad and encouraged in my career by males and females alike. I was the only one who seemed concerned when I asked around one time to find out ‘what I should wear’ as a woman exec – and how I should wear my hair – all those I asked said it was irrelevant; choose my own look and not worry about it. So don’t patronize me and tell me we’re not equal. I quit work to raise my children and I don’t regret it at all. I will raise them to be intelligent and independent, respectful and pray that they are blind to the prejudices that others seem to want to point out and thereby maintain. I am one of the reasons that there are less women in executive positions. My executive position is in my household, invested in raising my own children.

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    Terri Reply:

    Lamar, you contradict yourself when you state you never felt like a woman in a man’s world. Your example of asking what you should wear and how you should wear your hair “as a woman exec” is perceived as you having the impression that you should appear different that who you are, at least at some point in your life. Your chosen words, not mine. One does not ask that question ‘as a women exec’, one asks about the dress code as a matter of business.

    Of interest is that you chose to perceive the writer’s letter to be patronizing. That is too bad that you could not see it as a letter of encouragement to women in the engineering program. In general, women have been discouraged to enter science programs…not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Your response is filled with ‘I’ statements and your personal experiences…. has a defensive undertone. You have no reason for defensiveness.

    There are outliers when it comes to generalizations. The fact that you were raised in a military family is an outlier. For heaven’s sake, the guy was being encouraging.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Lamarr, I am pleased that you didn’t experience the negative reactions and obstacles that many women in the sciences do. I once had a similar conversation with someone about campus life in which I said I had never been a victim of sexual discrimination (that I knew of) or violence. She agreed that was a great thing, of course, but then added, “Although, you’ve always had enough to eat, but that doesn’t mean world hunger doesn’t exist.” And that really changed my outlook on social issues. I can be fortunate and work from that position, but it doesn’t mean others haven’t had the negative experiences I avoided.

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    Louise Reply:

    A fantastic reply!
    Thank you Lisa.

    Megan Reply:

    You have some good points but, to be honest, your post is part of why we need feminism. Jared started this conversation about WOMEN’S issues in engineering, but you thought it was more important to bring up your own personal but totally unrelated issues instead. Patriarchy, sexism, they are all about making women and their needs unimportant so that a man can always have his way instead. I really doubt this was intentional on your part, but now that you know, it’s something you should keep in mind for next time.

    That said, the stuff you are talking about is very important and deserves a conversation. It just needs to be separate from this one.

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    Staci Reply:

    Yeah, because a man coming to the rescue, and telling women what they experience is so much better than the actual reality of women’s success.
    Much easier to blame it on big bad gender issues than to kick so much butt in life and overcome obstacles without complaining.

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  9. Dana on October 8th, 2015 2:18 pm

    Well, thanks for speaking up. But I feel I need to point out that women – feminists – have been talking about these inequalities, and resisting them in various ways, forever. I’m a female mechanical engineer and feminist activist who is very, very tired of patriarchy. And your position, as indicated by your defeatist language – we “cannot be equal” – seems to absolve you of any responsibility. What are you doing to change the situation for women? Are you calling out your male colleagues when they make sexist remarks, or act out their misogynist attitudes in other ways? How are you using your position of privilege to support women in their fight for equality?

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    Don Reply:

    You’ve clearly missed the point. By writing this letter, the author is quite obviously calling out his male colleagues for their often boorish and condescending behavior. Far from defeatist, his statement that we can never be equal is a tribute to the success and sacrifice that his women colleagues have achieved. In essence, that he will never be as good as the women he works next to.

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  10. Karsten on October 9th, 2015 2:55 am

    While surely written in good intention, I feel like this letter is the kind of action that just turns the problem into another one.
    The writer is pretty much telling us that women are those poor, little creatures that have it so much more difficult in life that you should look at them differently.
    But I guess that’s exactly what they don’t want. Putting women in tech on a pedestal, seems nearly as disrespectful to me as not taking them seriously as an engineer.

    This letter is trying to fight the symptom and not the cause.
    Looking at a woman in tech as some kind of hero won’t solve the problem.

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    Megan Reply:

    Jared is just doing what an engineer does, calling out problems as he sees them. Jared’s a perceptive enough person to see what women face day in and day out when they try to get into engineering. He knows they are not the same problems he faces as a man. I’m not sure how stating the facts means he’s putting women “on a pedestal.”

    And no, pretending that all of the things he’s noticed aren’t real won’t solve anything. He’s an engineer, he knows that pretending that a problem doesn’t exist won’t solve it.

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  11. Chris on October 9th, 2015 5:13 am

    While some of this letter has good points, some of them are a bit overreaching. For example the statement “Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills”.

    This statement is so far from the truth, I find it amusing. We have films coming out such as the Hunger games, which encourages the exact opposite. Music from artists such as Taylor Swift who is THE highest paid and most popular artist out there right now. We have women sports broadcasters in the NFL and MLB, and commercials on TV lauding the accomplishments of females in STEM.

    Our culture is poised so strongly in support of females I find the very fact that someone utters this as proof of a disconnect with reality. it is at the point that (for better or worse) you can’t even turn around without being reminded how great women are at anything and everything they do.

    The part that particularly struck a chord with me however was the comment about the diversity hire. Despite our best efforts, a “diveristy hire” DOES happen. That is, afterall, the whole point behind affirmitive action. Because of this we must ask ourselves if making a hire because of gender, religion or race (The ‘diversity hire’) is, afterall is said and done, a good thing. You simply cannot mandate a hire to be made based on this criteria while also in the same breath demand people not take that factor into account in regards to their contrabution to the team. As long as the “diversity hire” exists, there will always be the question of their actual contrabution to the team.

    In this regards, affirmitive action has done much lasting deep damage by instilling this question at the back of everyone’s minds. I believe society may have progressed to the point where the diversity hire is no longer needed in regards to traditional gender and some races. Specifically male/female and African Americans. I do believe it is a useful tool for people suffering from gender disphoria, Muslims and those from India (Not sure what the PC term is…). In those regards affirmitive action has much benefit that can be gained but the progress in regards to African Americans and women has come so far that the tools needed when the movement was in it’s infancy we have outgrown. It is much like teaching a baby to run. You first must teach him to walk, but when you do, you do not insist a child keep his walker beyond the stage he has learned to walk on his own as that will only crimple further progress.

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    Megan Reply:

    Haha, you think not even 20% is “far enough” for women in engineering? No thanks.

    The “diversity hire” misconception is so confusing to me. If we start with the scientifically-supported assumption that there is no difference in inherent engineering ability between the sexes, between races, then the only people being hired based on their sex and race are WHITE MEN since there are so many more of them.

    Of course this is all happening way before the hiring process. White boys are getting encouraged to play with building toys and study math and science and major in engineering at a higher rate than girls or people of color for no other reason than their sex and race.

    And no I’m not saying that white men get handed everything. Engineering is hard no matter what. I’m saying that white men get to use the stairs rise up in engineering thanks to a culture that supports them, while the rest of us have to run up a “down” escalator.

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    Wow... Reply:

    Your comment exemplifies the reason I, a black male in my late teens, view social justice in all its forms as a social cancer.

    It’s no longer about individuals and their unique struggles and helping all our fellow humans out. It’s about subdivisions of people separated into “Oppressors” vs. “Oppressed” and making automatic assumptions about people based on their race and sex.

    I’ve lived a far better life as a black male in an affluent neighborhood than my white friend who grew up in a Detroit ghetto and has family who’ve been shot to death. But social justice indicates that since he’s white, he automatically has more privilege than me.

    I have a far better chance to succeed than him, yet I will benefit from affirmative action while he can’t. All he ever hears is that white men are terrible self-centered whiny crybabies who have it SOO much better than everyone else.

    Individuals have individual issues that they deal with in their own unique way. And as long as we ensure, maintain and strengthen the meritocracy and equality of opportunity in STEM, then nothing more should be done for any reason whatsoever.

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  12. Deanna on October 9th, 2015 8:03 am

    Jared,

    I can tell you have one amazing future ahead of you! I work in the aviation industry, so I completely relate to what you wrote. You nailed it brother! Living under a microscope is not easy. Just having one male peer who “gets” it and has my back makes a world of difference in my everyday work life. After you settle into your career, you’ll find that your female counterparts are incredibly loyal, hardworking, and resourceful…Great people to have on your side! Keep up the good work.

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  13. David on October 9th, 2015 8:15 am

    Dana,
    Nice job of upbraiding Jared Mauldin for his letter to the editor, when he should have written a feminist manifesto (I guess he didn’t get your memo!).
    Your response is full of patriarchal attitudes: you place him in a superior position of “responsibility,” “privilege,” and power from which he is to reach down with a helping hand.
    In addition, you are incredibly obtuse: his “you and I cannot be equal” was not defeatist, it was an acknowledgement that the women in his department are, in the many ways he listed, his betters.
    What are YOU doing to “change the situation for women?” You are spitting in the face of any man who comes to your aid. You are a fool!

    [Reply]

  14. Cybin Monde on October 9th, 2015 9:21 am

    Dana, it wasn’t mentioned here, but in an article about this, they state that Jared was on Today and said, “Really, when you look at this letter, I said nothing new. I didn’t say anything that another feminist writer hasn’t said before. The distinguishing factor … happens to be that I am a man. That is a problem.” So, he totally agrees with you on that first point you made.

    Also, when he said “you and I cannot be equal”, he was pointing out that women have had to work harder and do more. He is simply implying that women deserve more credit, not less.

    To be clear, i’m not trying to be confrontational. I just had read the article before coming here and knew there was a piece missing and felt it would be worthwhile to bring it up. (And to give proper credit, here’s a link to the article i referenced above: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2015/10/08/jared-mauldin-student-engineering-lett )

    [Reply]

    Dana Reply:

    Hi Cybin, thanks for this. I appreciate the additional info.

    [Reply]

  15. Justin on October 9th, 2015 9:51 am

    @ Dana, wouldn’t this letter to the editor (which has been shared to thousands, if not millions of people by websites like Huffington Post) be a fantastic example of something that Jared is doing to try to change the people’s mentality toward women in engineering fields? As another man who fancies himself to be a feminist, along my journey I have encountered women who are thankful to see men acting on this issue by spreading awareness, discouraging sexist talk in private groups of men, etc, and have encouraged them to continue, as allies. I have also encountered women who take on an accusatory tone; they tend to charge us with the thousands of years of social injustice men have inflicted upon women and demand that we do more. I think that this mindset is inherently flawed, because it’s disheartening as a man to be received in this manner, when one of the people in the group you’re trying to help is, in essence, telling you that you’re ineffectual.

    Instead, it’s possible to send the same message, but with a tone of encouragement. We are not women. We cannot truly know what this brand of discrimination feels like. What we can do is promise to try to help women when the opportunity arises. We are feminists too. We want to be your ally. Let’s both preach to the choir and help bring more men into the fold. The change is happening, and it’s happening faster now than it ever has in American society. We can keep it going strong.

    [Reply]

    Dana Reply:

    Hi Justin, thanks for your comments, I appreciate your openness and respectfulness. I regret the strident tone of my original message, though I stand by the points I was trying to make! I wish I had opened by saying more clearly that I appreciate Jared speaking out about this, especially because it is inspired by his first-hand experience. I do believe that men speaking out in this way is part of the solution, and what I was hoping to convey was that so much more needs to be done. I do think men need to be more aware of and more willing to acknowledge their privilege (as I believe Jared is trying to do with his letter) – not so that women can be pitied or put on a pedestal; rather, so that effective actions can be taken at multiple levels (from water-cooler conversations to government policy) to bring men and women closer to true equality.

    [Reply]

  16. Carla on October 9th, 2015 1:18 pm

    I wish people would see more of the positive intent of the writer rather than seeking something to take issue with. To the writer, thank you for noticing and thank you for caring enough to put what you see out there.

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  17. Tara on October 9th, 2015 1:20 pm

    I love that Jared owns it. I work in a Boys Club and can relate so well to his letter. I recently started a blog as an outlet and to get people to recognize how far we have left to go. If you’re interested:
    https://girlswhocanmath.wordpress.com/

    [Reply]

  18. Alice Parker on October 9th, 2015 1:37 pm

    Yes, I agree with comments that not every male has had an easy time. Read Charles Blows’ “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” for an excellect autobiography about growing up African American in the US south. But women (and underrepresented groups) continue to experience discrimination, although it is sometimes less public and more subtle than in the past. Of course, not every woman in STEM has experienced discrimination. But this letter to the editor is on point and I think the writer shows a sensitivity that should be congratulated.

    [Reply]

    Lesley Reply:

    “Not every woman in STEM has experienced discrimination?” I’ve been working in the aerospace industry for thirty years, and I have to know – who? Where? Who is this lucky devil, because it isn’t I or any female engineer I know or have worked with in the past three decades. Bless this guy for writing the letter, but everyone attempting to diminish his message needs to go crawl back under their rocks.

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  19. Joe T on October 11th, 2015 6:33 pm

    I am an Engineering manager.
    The female engineers in my department are hard-working, knowledgeable and professional.
    In this day and age it is ability, not skin color or gender that guides my hiring practice.

    JT

    [Reply]

  20. Erin on October 12th, 2015 11:49 am

    Food for thought: A 1999 paper by Steinpreis, Anders, and Ritzke (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1018839203698) indicates that a gender bias for both men and women exists in preference for male job applicants. The study used real CVs that were identical. The only difference: they placed a more “obvious” female name on one and a male name on the other.

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  21. Cindy Gray on October 12th, 2015 4:46 pm

    Here’s a great article to pass on to girls and young women, or any woman for that matter.
    My granddaughter just started at UCLA this fall and I sent this to her.

    10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn

    “Stop interrupting me.”

    “I just said that.”

    “No explanation needed.”

    http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-05-10-simple-words-every-girl-learn/

    [Reply]

  22. Melissa on October 12th, 2015 5:24 pm

    Dear Jared,

    Female Aerospace (BS) and Systems (MS) Engineer here, and I just want to say thank you. I consider myself a feminist, but I’m not here to say anything other than it is because you are a man that your words carry so much weight. As someone who couldn’t take it anymore and after 11 years in industry and many, many more being a minority in the classroom and labs, I exited aerospace for a role in healthcare. It gives me hope for future generations to see your words, and they brought me to tears of joy. Take every opportunity to show the women around you that there are guys who get how tough we have it, and you might just find yourself saving someone from giving up on a dream that so many days can feel like a nightmare.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    [Reply]

  23. Camila on October 12th, 2015 9:33 pm

    omg, I love you.

    [Reply]

  24. Kathleen Duthie on October 14th, 2015 10:06 pm

    Well said Jared. As.a female science major in the 1970’s, I appreciate your insight. More girls/ women now take STEM classes than ever before. However, the experience that women have in these professions is not the same as their male classmates and coworkers, even if it is only a remnant of what I experienced. Good on you for recognizing this and writing your letter.

    [Reply]

  25. ButAmIWrong? on October 17th, 2015 7:12 pm

    Brilliant! This guy will have dates lined up to the end of time.

    [Reply]

  26. JeNeen Clipp on February 28th, 2016 3:47 am

    Thank you Jared for your honest and poignant assessment of our culture. I am humbly grateful for your public support. It is true courage to speak this, just as many women have had to live this, while the evolution of a new comfort zone is being created -and antiquated thinking is crumbling away.
    There will be those who would try to marginalize your view point. It is my hope that it is the start of their death-rattle.

    [Reply]

  27. Smitha58 on September 6th, 2016 12:38 am

    A big thank you for your article.Really thank you! Cool. ddfcgcagbkddedba

    [Reply]

  28. Josh K on October 28th, 2016 2:18 am

    Jared wrote this to try to get laid. Sorry everyone. Good talk.

    [Reply]

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Letter to the Editor: STEM