How are female students treated at MIT?

Answer by Anon User:

I'm a girl studying computer science at MIT, and while I've been treated with fairness and respect (for the most part), I have seen some male students talk about the female half of the student body with disdain. Contrary to what you might expect, many of the comments are about female students' looks rather than their smarts.

Some male students joke about how unattractive Course 18 (math major) girls are, or how unattractive the female MIT population is in general. At least one fraternity that I know of hosts some parties where no MIT girls are allowed. There's subtler expressions of prejudice, too. If you're an attractive girl roaming the MIT campus and a guy meets you for the first time, he might ask if you go to MIT – because they believe you most likely go to Wellesley or BU instead. You learn to try and take these things as a compliment.

Then there's the fact that some guys don't like dating MIT girls because they don't want to be reminded of schoolwork and stress. And I get it; it can be tough dating someone who is always as stressed as you are. I'm sure there are other reasons some MIT guys discriminate against MIT girls when it comes to hookups and/or relationships. Some are probably more confident when they're courting a non-MIT girl because they think girls from other schools find the MIT brand name desirable. (The same goes for many guys from any "top" school, though.)

When I was a freshman, I did some real-life A/B testing to see if guys who approached me at parties stuck around longer if I told them I was a Wellesley student rather than an MIT student.* The sample size was way too small (3 people each) for this to be remotely scientific, but all the guys who heard I was a Wellesley student stuck around and tried to dance with me, etc., while 2 of the 3 guys who heard I was an MIT student left shortly thereafter. Of course, it could have been a coincidence.

Do MIT guys view the girls as intellectually inferior, though? I think largely not, though I could be mistaken. Female-dominated majors range from those perceived as easy (Course 9, Brain & Cognitive Science), to intermediate (Course 7 – Biology), to difficult (Course 4 – Architecture). [1] [2] At MIT, prejudices stem mostly from major rather than gender.

I do personally know a handful of guys who genuinely believe girls are, on average, not as technically competent as their male counterparts. These guys acknowledge their bright and capable female peers as equals, but tend to see them as exceptions rather than the rule. Please keep in mind that this mindset is not the norm at MIT, and that for the most part, girls and guys are viewed as intellectual equals. (If anything, it's the Harvard/Wellesley/BU students who are undeservingly mocked as intellectually inferior.)

That being said, many girls I know don't do hardcore engineering/science jobs after graduation. It may be due to the lack of confidence instilled in them during their undergraduate years, though I have absolutely no idea about each girl's own decision. I personally will not attempt to pursue a fully technical (i.e., coding/software engineering) job after graduation due to, yes, low self-confidence in my technical abilities. I don't want to make one mistake and forever lower my male peers' opinion of all women, ever, in the history of the world. This, however, merits a separate discussion, as I don't think many of my girlfriends think the same way.

I don't think the currently-existing efforts to support women in STEM at MIT are really effective; in fact, they mostly serve as a target for (male) trolls who like to show up at women's groups' events just to take free food. Talking about issues like the gender gap annoy some guys I know; they disparage the achievements of women like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer because, they say, these women wouldn't get the same widespread recognition for their work if they were men. You have to understand that many MIT students live in a bubble of meritocracy and have trouble comprehending the subtle politics of the real-world workplaces; here, it seems unfair to guys that there are so many resources dedicated to helping women achieve more, when they don't seem to deserve the extra attention. The women who get ahead at MIT are feminine, smart, don't seem to make a big deal out of being a girl.

*I realize this makes me sound really awkward.
[1] Major enrollment statistics, females only: http://web.mit.edu/registrar/sta…
[2] Major enrollment statistics, all students: http://web.mit.edu/registrar/sta…

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About kenju254

Python Django Developer who is a tech junkie and also happens to be an avid writer

Posted on December 19, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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