2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Danielle McDougal

The main issue that I have personally come across when talking to women in STEM fields is that their male counterparts do not trust their capabilities. I’ve spoken to one young woman that ended up transferring from an engineering field because none of her male classmates or professors would be include her in conversation, rendering her invisible. Another woman told me that it took her over ten years for her fellow coding coworkers to not double check her work or outright question her knowledge. This is ultimately sexism, whether the offenders consciously recognize it as such or not. I can only see one way to combat this problem: conduct intergroup dialogue sessions to force this issue into the light and make it visible and create advocates out of offenders.

I understand universities and companies have women empowerment training, but their male counterparts are typically not invited to these meetings. In intergroup dialogue, a small group of people gather together with equal representation of the targeted group (in this case, women) and the majority group (in this case, men.) This process has been proven to work and it sheds light on the issues that both men and women face when dealing with sexism. Once these issues are brought out in the open, steps can be made to address a toxic environment that is ultimately pushing away wonderful candidates based on their sex. 

This is not training, but it may need to be deployed as such. Monetary resources need to be allocated for companies to hire an external facilitator. Small groups (around ten) need to be created with an equal amount of men and women and they need to be willing to meet once every week or two for hour-long meetings. The facilitator would need to talk about what dialogue is, conduct trust exercises with these people, and then guide them through personal thoughts and experiences only when the facilitator deems that the group trusts each other enough. This training may take at most a year, but the results from these trainings have positive results: the environment will change for the better so long as group members adhere to their training.

I have heard too many stories about women in STEM not being treated equally as their male coworkers and it sincerely bothers me, to have brilliant minds shut out because of ignorance is a disgrace. We need to do right by the women that want achieve their dreams in STEM fields as much as men and we can do that by taking the necessary steps to eliminating sexism in workplaces and colleges. It is a lofty goal, but we need to start somewhere. Why not start now?