Mulattea is a blog written by Skye Haynes. Her posts explore mixed identity, feminism, race, religion, and privilege.

STEM Fields, Gender Gaps, What's New?

STEM Fields, Gender Gaps, What's New?

I know, I know. I've been on a hiatus. 

I let my passion drive me when I write, which means I usually need to see something that sparks a reaction in me before I go writing a Mulattea post. These past few weeks I feel like I've been seeing TOO much though. 

It almost feels like I've had a content overload and just don't know what to write about. 

But recently I saw something that I really wanted to respond to because, oh man, it really grinds my gears. 

If you haven't read the article written by Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, here's the link. What are you waiting for? 

It's so many kinds of offensive. It simultaneously broke my heart and angered my soul.

If you want a TL;DR, the engineer talks about the many forms that sexism took in her work experience at Uber. It ranges from sexual harassment texts from her boss to being held back from any upward mobility. She tries to reach out several times to HR and they basically say "Sorry, nothing we can do. But have you thought maybe it's you?"

In short, I'm downloading Lyft. 

The reasons I took this post to heart are twofold:

  1. There is a gender gap in STEM fields that Uber recognized and perpetuated. 
  2. This woman, these women, already went through the hardships of pursuing a STEM field and on top of that has to endure sexism and workplace discrimination. 

I've written about the gender gap in stem fields before, it's backed up by statistics, it's not just an opinion. It isn't some feminist jargon. It's REAL. From childhood women are discouraged from pursuing science, technology, engineering or math related fields because we're perceived as less smart and less capable, with our strengths being more in teaching, caretaking etc. 

I spoke with women in STEM fields at the University of Maryland who shared their experiences with that discouragement and sexism. Men who just assumed they'd drop the major and choose something that's less hard. 

It really upsets me and goes back to my piece on parenting and gender roles. Let your daughter take interest in science. Science isn't a masculine field. It isn't a feminine one— SURPRISE: career fields aren't gendered! 

Girls should be encouraged from day 1 to be uninhibited in their academic interests. 

I wish I hadn't been conditioned in school to see sciences and maths as "too hard." I was/am actually pretty good in science, but my stigma associated with it led me to not enjoy it at all. 

It really upsets me that the women at Uber have already fought an uphill battle, and that once they reached the peak, they saw there was just another hill. I just can't fathom it. Workplace discrimination is a topic I'll touch on more at the end of the summer, when I can speak a little more freely.

But for now, just a message to women experiencing that discrimination: you have three choices. You can either keep your head down and say nothing, speak up, or leave. Keep in mind that speaking up might lead to you leaving regardless. Personally, I understand keeping your head down because you need this position, you need this job. If you say something, you might ruin any chance of a promotion, of good reviews, of keeping your job. To top it all off: they might do nothing about it. 

Susan Fowler spoke up frequently just to be blackballed by all of her male superiors. She was quite literally sexted by her boss, and nothing was done after she showed the messages to HR. 

But she kept it up. She documented everything, she kept copies, she continued to work hard. Let's be real: that also did nothing. She had to quit. And now she's better off. 

So I guess what I'm saying is there's no right answer. You can stay and be miserable or take your chances elsewhere. Just know that whatever you choose, I got your back.

I'll end with this quote from the article, because it sums up the experiences that many women find themselves in. 

"When I look back at the time I spent at Uber, I'm overcome with thankfulness that I had the opportunity to work with some of the best engineers around. I'm proud of the work I did, I'm proud of the impact that I was able to make on the entire organization, and I'm proud that the work I did and wrote a book about has been adopted by other tech companies all over the world. And when I think about the things I've recounted in the paragraphs above, I feel a lot of sadness, but I can't help but laugh at how ridiculous everything was."

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