New feature: The woman engineer: are we really that incompetent?

// 21 July 2009

What is really holding back women in engineering, and stopping girls from aspiring to careers in applied sciences? Wisrutta Atthakor investigates

Women are rubbish at driving, women are rubbish at sports, women are rubbish at martial arts, women are rubbish at politics, women are rubbish at science, engineering and technology, manual labour, electronics, computers, at being chefs (despite being expected to cook for the family), at competition, at debates (despite apparently being so argumentative), at giving speeches (despite apparently never being able to stop talking)… the list goes on (nearly) ad infinitum. Or should I say women are worse than men at all of these things?

How can half of the population of the world be naturally, innately worse than the other half at practically everything? The answer is: we are not! Women are not worse than men at practically everything. The truth of the matter is that for each skill or activity, some women are worse than some men, some men are worse than some women, some women are worse than some women and some men are worse than some men. It’s pretty logical, really. Yet, people seem to get it drummed into their heads from a very young age that some things are ‘a man’s job’. I can’t go into everything I’ve listed above in one article, so let me concentrate on something I know a little about: science, engineering and technology (SET).

Since I was a little girl, I have always liked tinkering. I would watch my dad and help him mess about with his car engine. I was over the moon when my sister and I were given a remote-control car, but was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a more powerful one, like the ones the boys at school had. I had a little carpenter’s workshop toy, which consisted of a little wooden workbench and colourful plastic screwdrivers, a hammer, and nuts and bolts. I always wanted to be an engineer – except for when I wanted to be an astronaut or a surgeon. Of course, when I was a little girl, I didn’t know that there existed such a concept that women were meant to be the teachers and men were meant to be the engineers.

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