A Small Fish in a Big Pond: Being a Girl in the College of Engineering

by Paige Wilson

If you haven’t already figured it out, the gender ratio for the engineering college at Iowa State is male skewed. Being a newcomer on such a large campus can be scary enough, but to be a female engineer? Sounds scary. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not, and it’s actually pretty fun.

When you walk into class on the first day, regardless if it’s college or high school, your first instinct may be to go sit in that empty seat by another girl rather than a boy. This was my instinct when I walked into my first engineering class as a freshman, ENGR 160H, and saw boy, boy, boy, girl, boy, boy…etc. That girl’s name was Sarah and ever since that first day, we did almost all our homework, studying, and projects for that class together. Sarah and I developed a strong bond not only in the classroom, but also as friends and carried it to future semesters. The girls in engineering classes tend to stick together and they are all (mostly) friendly and accepting to newcomers. This, however, doesn’t mean you should only talk to girls in engineering classes…

The male engineers are extremely nice and are not always the stereotypical socially awkward boy engineers you may think of. The boys I’ve approached have helped with almost every question I’ve had, ranging from “What did the teacher just say?” to “I don’t fully understand what problem 2 is asking, do you?” to “How in the heck do you even begin to write a computer program??” Maybe it’s something in the male genes, but when girls ask them questions (I’m sure if a boy asked, they would help them, too), they love to assist and teach you. Maybe it makes them feel manlier, or they are just nice people who like to help out. But, just remember to not be afraid to ask that boy next to you if you have a question, everyone has questions. One day, that same boy will ask you a question.

Being a female engineer gives you a lot more respect by peers than you may think. Smart girls are awesome! Boys think highly of girls who are hardworking and intelligent. The boys don’t look at you and automatically assume that since you’re a girl, you don’t even know how to do find the equation of a line. Your fellow classmates will view you by how hard you work, not by your gender. We’re in college now folks, people aren’t as stereotypical. As you get older, everyone views everyone else as simply a person. Gender no longer plays a role; hard work determines how people think of you.

So, there you have it. These are just a few bits of information I’ve learned over the three years I’ve had being a female in the college of engineering. I hope this has eased the possible anxiety of new coming female engineers and reminded those that relate to stay strong and work hard; your four (or more) years here at ISU will be much more fun and rewarding if you do!


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