Posted by: erikam12 | February 6, 2015

Be an engineer

Although this “article” is brief, it brings up very important and necessary issues that we have touched on in class. This article has stemmed from the HeForShe campaign that Emma Watson has been promoting. After launching this campaign, one girl tweeted at Emma and stated “my dad says I can’t be an engineer ‘cause it’s a man’s profession’ what do I do to change that?” Emma responded by saying, “Become an engineer.” This got attention by women in the engineering profession around the world. Women began tweeting about their struggles to make it in their career field and some of the negative attention that they got for pursuing it.

This article took me back to the beginning of the semester and our conversation about injunctive norms, meaning that society believes certain characteristics are desired for one gender and then “enforces” these characteristics on those individuals in society. This also resonated with me when concerning the Social Role Theory, which states that gender dictates the differences in how men/women live out their lives. For example that women are placed in social roles (being a housewife, etc.) These theories stuck out to me because of our continual conversation about attempting to change society at a generational level. Starting by teaching children that men and women are different but are also equal and have the same capacity to achieve equality. When this little girl stated that it was her father that told her that she was not qualified to be an engineer, this debunks every strategy that we as a class have discussed. How can we help society to understand that equality will help shape the future, if young children are told that they are not able to achieve something because of their sex. Yes, this must start at a generational level, to bring up children to believe in true equality, however it is naïve to think that we can just shape this idea without taking into account the beliefs and experiences of the parents bringing up these children.

My favorite quote from this article was a woman that tweeted “30 years ago I was told to become a secretary. I became a global engineering manager.” While it is amazing that this woman was able and “comfortable” going against the norms for her career field, this brings in the conversation of the double bind. It is my honest belief that strategizing for the double bind will not help a great deal. In my opinion, this is because there will always be backlash for a woman that is too assertive as well as for a woman that is too humble.

My worry is that I went into this class thinking that the world was my oyster and that there would be no one that could take that away from me. In my case, that has been true, but it is disheartening to hear that this hope is being striped from the lives of young women in today’s society, when we are supposed to be past these ideals. Are we going to be able to bring up generations of children with the ideals of true equality without completely neutralizing characteristics about each gender? Do you think that there is a way to abolish the double bind or is our only hope to lessen its effect in the workforce? Will there ever be a point in time where the bitch and the ditz are no longer applicable to women in a leadership context?


  1. To see a change in how people perceive gender stereotypes will take many years and education to accomplish. Luckily we are able to have an education that allows us opportunities to learn about the challenges women leaders face in life and try to fight the struggles. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the problems faced by women and the damages that happens. So, people ignore that there is an equality problem in the nation perpetuate stereotypes. Though with famous leaders like Emma Watson and the women who responded to her tweet there is hope that women might one day not have to face as many problems like the double bind. Although, until there is more women leaders rising to public platforms to prove women’s competency in our society the stereotypes of the bitch and the ditz will probably take a lot longer to fix.

  2. I honestly think that there is no hope of fully diminishing the double blind. If you look at any equality issue that has plagued the world, it is evident that there will be no full equality. Take race for example. In the United States we were very heavily involved in the slave trade and for years we took advantage of African Americans. While there has been movements and continued persistence to give African Americans equal rights as White Americans, there is still no true equality. There are many small towns today that discriminate against African Americans. Additionally, there has been numerous studies that have revealed that African Americans get paid lower than White Americans do.

    My point with all of this is that even inequality is always present. There is always going to be someone who has an advantage over someone else. While I don’t think there will ever be true equality for women, I think that equality should be the goal that society should work towards.

  3. I think in order to bring up generations that see true gender equality, that it will need to start with our generation. It may not be a big step that can be made, but it may be the first step in the process. I think that the differences in gender are emphasized and worse when there are still generations that have such strong views toward stereotypes. If society were going to have true gender equality then I think it would have to work in a system where for each generation, the gap in gender equality gets smaller and smaller until there are no strong stereotypes left. It would be like in a perfect scenario on a graph of watching each generation come closer to the threshold. I think even if true equality can be met that some differences in gender should not go away. Differences should be recognized. When talking in groups in class one day my partner and I talked about whether leadership should even be degendered. I think that it should be, but the argument was that there are differences that people bring to situations because of different backgrounds or their biology. Those differences should be recognized and the different perspectives can be used. I’m not sure what a completely gender neutral society would look like and I am not even sure if we would be able to handle it because our minds are so used to categorizing things and pulling information because of what we see. As I was writing this though, I thought maybe this is the problem. Until we can start being able to gather information about people and situations based on getting to know who the person is and not based on gender or looks we may not be able to make progress toward the threshold.

  4. The gap between women and men are shrinking in America and inequities are being lowered, however they still exist. It is hard to imagine a society where gender differences are not present. There is a theory that states the oppressed will not become equal for the equivalent time they were oppressed. I think this has some validity to it, in stating that change takes time, especially if it is ingrained in society, such as race and gender. I believe that education is the key to speeding up this process as ideas and societal norms are explored and questioned. It is proven that education is one of the largest factors in improving living quality and bringing about change. As more and more Americans go to college and takes ideas they have learned and enter into the world there could be a stronger shift to equality. It will be very hard to break down the gender stereotypes and inequalities that exist in society, but incrementally they will improve. There is a way for individuals to try and speed up the process, educate, challenge the system, and be persistent. If each of us take it upon ourselves to educate, help women be more confident in breaking out of their defined sectors, and not give up when we hit walls, slowly we begin to chip away at the barriers that prevent equality. Like Caitlin mentioned, I do think that differences are important to recognize, and if we embrace these differences then equality can be more easily reached.

  5. I really enjoyed this article and the tweet that came with it. I remember retweeting it as soon as I saw it. I experienced a similar situation to the one you described when I first got to college. I was raised in a loving home with a supportive family and a really great support system. There was no one to tell me that I wasn’t suited for a role because of my gender or otherwise. Once I got to college however, I started to see a lot of different things than those of what I was used to. Upperclassmen joking about the three women in the Math department, or even professors joking that I was going after a man’s job and that I had a tough road ahead of me. Thankfully, I still have an amazing support system and a “give em’ hell” attitude that has served me well in my major.
    I do think that it is important to take into account the generational divide. There are still an alarming amount of people in the workforce that completely buy into every gender stereotype and cultural norm. However, I feel that in a few years, as those folks begin to retire and step down and more people from our generation come into these places of power we will see a shift in the way gender is viewed. Generally speaking, members of our generation tend to be more open minded and accepting of women and men who break the norm. I think that it is important to keep stressing this idea of acceptance and open mindedness to the next generation because it will foster a more open attitude in society about gender and everything that comes with it.

  6. I personally think that while, yes, people will tell you what you can and can’t do based on gender and make jokes, all you can do is do you. I think that “You do you” is one of my favorite ideas because it says be yourself, do what you want and what makes you happy regardless of the gender expectations or roles. There will be parents and people who will enforce those gender roles and contribute to the double bind. All one can do as an individual is try their best to teach their own children that they should be who or whatever they want regardless of society. If my son wants to be a stay at home dad, or a dancer, or an engineer or wrestler, who am I to tell them that they can’t? As a parent, I think it would be our responsibility to support them fully and wholeheartedly, while also instilling a core value of open-mindedness and acceptance like Jordan said. The double bind might be a norm in society for years to come, but as long as we are chipping away at it a little bit at a time, eventually hopefully it will only be the expectation of a small backwards population of people. Until then, we should just keep encouraging women to follow whatever path they choose to and encourage them to be a leader in that area. If for some reason they hit a barrier we should teach them to just keep fighting it. Chip away at the barrier one piece at a time, and it has to shatter eventually. Even if the double bind and the glass ceiling may not be gone in our lifetime (worst case scenario), then hopefully we will have made enough of a dent to help the women of the future to overcome it!

  7. I think that the only way to really overcome these stereotypes is to encourage our own daughters to become leaders in more masculine roles. I grew up in a household with doctors as parents, so I had both male and female role models in masculine roles. Because of this, I didn’t see any sort of negative female stereotypes in terms of future career options. This encouraged me to aspire for a medical job, as well. I think, in many cases, parents tend to encourage their children to pursue careers within their typical gender norms because that’s what they were taught during their own childhoods. It’ll be harder for children and young adults to branch outside of their stereotypes when their own parents are trying to prevent it. Young adults who grow up in those types of environments need to be educated and informed that those stereotypes are not required. Campaigns like Emma Watson’s can be so important for the lives of young people. She can help encourage women to take on more masculine careers and vice versa. However, I think that the easiest way for us to truly break free from those career-based gender norms is to teach parents of children not to assign careers to their children based on their genders.

  8. I agree with Hannah

    I unfortunately think that there is no achievable way to fully diminish the double bind. Equality has been an issue of the world for years now. For example, race. African Americans achieved “equality” on paper Constitutionally; the 13th amendment abolished slavery, the 14th granted African Americans citizenship, and 15th gave African American males the right to vote. However in society we haven’t fully achieved this equality. Racial slurs are still spoken against African Americans. Today, there is still tension created between the “whites” and the “blacks” as seen in the Ferguson and Missouri case because of the Micheal Brown shooting, and even the police incident in New York.

    On the other hand, women received the right to vote in the 1920. Black males were give then right to vote far in advance before women. Men believed that females would throw off and disrupt the ballets and cause chaos in the elections (however this is not true, typically the women voted for the same candidate as their husband).

    My point is that America, and other nations have strove to make advancements and amendments for their country to give freedom and equality to all races and genders. Inequality is, and always will be present. Someone will always have the upper hand over someone else. I hate to sound so pessimistic. But I do truly hope that one day there will be equality for all women and humans of all races in the world. How do we go about that? I think it starts with education and keeping people informed on issues and current events.

  9. I think that Hannah brings up an interesting point about not being able to change things purely on an individual or generation level. I think a key part of maybe having equality one day is the generational level though. I was watching a documentary about the poverty cycle a while ago. In the film, a program was being setup called Baby College. It essentially is where parents of poor communities bring their babies to learn about all the techniques for children development that middle class people know. A young couple, who was caught up in the poverty cycle, was interviewed. They knew they would never escape it but they were going to Baby College to give their baby a chance to break the poverty cycle. I think the same kind of concept can be applied here. If a parent expresses their opinions of prejudice to their children, the world will never have equally. Children are so malleable that the kind of environment and opinions they are exposed to will mostly likely be their opinion until they are introduced to something different. That is where social media, telementoring, Amy’s smart girls, etc. come into play. If we can reach kids at an early age then we may have a shot at equality but our best chance is to have supportive parents as well. However, even with all these things we may never reach equality.

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