Sexism and the Sciences

By ANISA ISMAILAJ, Guest Writer

There is a gender imbalance happening at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Computer science was once a field where women thrived. However, since 2002, the number of women attaining a bachelor’s degree in the field of computer science has decreased. This shift is strange when we look at history. The first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman, as was Grace Hopper, the first compiler of a computer programming language. But why are we seeing a decrease of women in this field?

This underrepresentation of women in the field of computer science can be intimidating to prospective students who want to pursue computer science.sexism sciene

With the existence of a gender gap in computer science at the university, you can almost guarantee there being some form of sexism. Whether you’ve experienced it first hand or not, it exists. I’ve taken several computer science courses my first two years at the university and have seen sexism take place firsthand in the classroom.

When a friend of mine stated that her major was computer science, a male classmate followed up by saying, “You’ll go far as a woman in computer science.” The idea that your gender will land you a job instead of the potential and skills you have is insulting.

To further the argument, I’ve had personal experience with sexism in my own computer science classes. I was one of two women in my CIS 200 course. Throughout the semester, the professor would make comments that no one seemed to pay attention to at the time. He stated that the two women in the class should not drop the class because then “there would be nothing to look at.” Hearing that from a professor was astounding. To see that kind of behavior being condoned sets an example for other male students in the class to think that behavior is appropriate – but it’s far from appropriate. It’s disgusting and degrading.

Furthermore, more comments about the women’s appearance in the class were made. The professor drew attention to a woman’s appearance as he mentioned something that she did to her hair. A more comical, yet still degrading situation occurred when professor asked a student to open the door, and a female volunteered and was unable to open the door. The professor commented that a man should try instead, and backed up his comment by saying, “not to be sexist.”

These kinds of comments and behavior make for a terrible learning environment. It makes it difficult to enjoy going to class. But moreover, it displays the overflowing attitudes that are still underlying in the engineering field. And THAT makes it difficult being a woman engineer.