The woman standing in front of us turned around to face me. “Are you the cheerleaders?” she beamed. I glanced at my all-girls robotics team with a look of disbelief. As their proud captain, I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with them to build and program a fully-functional robot. Walking into the massive competition arena, I had tuned out the screaming fans and blasting music, focusing on the engineering challenges at hand. But the last thing I ever thought would happen was that my group of twelve girls who routinely wire electronics, design complicated mechanical systems, and write detailed programs would be mistaken for another school’s dance team.
Sadly, it was probably intended as a compliment. A male professor asked me the other day why the women engineering students have so little confidence even though they are often the top students. We agreed to have a longer talk, but I told him basically from puberty on, we’re treated solely as sex objects and told our value depends only on our attractiveness. GRRRRR.