I study Geology. It’s a typically male dominated field and I am female. There is a 3:1 ratio of men to women in my year group. Shockingly, this is a lot more equal than it was a couple decades ago and much closer to equality than the student intake on degrees like Aeronautical Engineering, to give an example. I was asked to write this article by my friend at Peace-Off, to give an insight for those of you who are in environments of near equal gender proportions or in environments dominated by your own gender, into what it’s like when you’re not in such a setting.
I am currently nearing the end of the second year of my degree programme, and I have already built up a bank of memories and have numerous experiences which stick out in my mind, where I felt discriminated against for my gender, or have seen male peers discriminated upon for theirs.
The worst discrimination I experienced was in December 2015; I heard that one of the men on our course had decided to rank the 20 odd women in the year based upon physical attractiveness. To add insult to injury this man is also our year rep for the Geological Society at the University. How in any context is this okay? Women in science already have to fight for acceptance through organised events such as ‘women into science weeks,’ and the few who do then go into science get treated like objects by the likes him. Women are only there for his entertainment, it appears. This is just wrong. There are no other words I can use to express how I feel about the fact that in our generation, where equality is regularly mentioned in the news and civil rights movements are taught on school curriculums, this can actually happen. It makes me feel like I am not taken seriously by my male peers in terms of what I am capable of academically; that, because I’m a woman, my physical attractiveness is ranked more highly than my intelligence.
I have been subject to open exclusion from events due to my gender. On a night out back in February this year, my female Geologist friend and I bumped into a male ‘friend’ from our course who was out with other male course mates. We were all having a nice laugh and talking, my friend left to go to the toilet. A couple minutes later this male friend of ours turned to me and told me I had to go. When I asked him why, I was outraged by his answer. He told me I had to leave this group of people because I was the only girl. Luckily I found my two male housemates in another part of the club who didn’t have a problem with my gender.
Another platform for this kind of gender-based exclusion is social media. The boys on my course have created a group on social media that none of the girls on our course are allowed to be added to. On this page, they discuss coursework and share answers. Whether this is them thinking the girls on the course are too stupid to have their answers considered or not this gender division is still wrong, especially when you consider the fact that the male populous are the majority. It is hindering everyone’s grades as they all copy each other, and could also be harming the reputation of the degree, as some individuals will graduate not being able to work independently or without the ability to do simple geology.
However, I do want to point out that not all of the male students on my course are like this. One of my good friends on the course is male and he’s not a part of any the discussed above, and I can definitely imagine he isn’t the only one. I think that he and others like him are subject to sweeping generalisations because it is so easy to presume that he would also behave like the characters described above simply based on his gender.
The final thoughts I want to share with you are in regards to female representation amongst my lecturers. So far approximately 28% of my lecturers have been female all of whom appear to be younger than 40. This is quite the contrast to my male lectures, the majority of whom appear to be over the age of 40, bar one who is in his early 30s. Although a somewhat small sample group I find these statistics promising, as if the majority of the younger lecturers are female and the proportion of female students has increased in past years as aforementioned, I think it is a sign that female involvement is definitely increasing within the profession.
The above statistics indicate that gender equality within my specific profession could be improving. However there is still continuing gender discrimination, from what is fortunately a minority of people being lead on by individuals. We still have a long fight ahead of us.