Here’s one of them:
Jared Mauldin, a senior studying mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University, took the time to pen a thoughtful and insightful letter to the editor of his school’s student newspaper, “The Easterner,” which was published Monday:
To the women in my engineering classes:
While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.
Sure, we are in the same school program, and you are quite possibly getting the same GPA as I, but does that make us equal?
I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science.
Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills.
In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.
I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine.
I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender.
I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the ‘diversity hire.’
When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it.
So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.
IMHO, that’s called dropping the mic — even though Mauldin admitted to the Huffington Post that “nothing (he) said was new; it has all been said a thousand times before.”
The only difference, he said, is that he is a man — one who frequently sees his female classmates, colleagues and even his fourth- to eighth-grade tech students face obstacles in STEM fields.
“Maybe by standing up and breaking the silence from the male side, I can help some more men begin to see the issues, and begin to listen to the women who have been speaking about this all along,” Mauldin told the Huffington Post.
His letter on “The Easterner” website was met mostly, unsurprisingly, with thanks, praise, encouragement, support, personal stories and more.
But then there were the critical comments of topics left unexplored: “I respect the purpose of your post, but there is far too much rhetoric on the issue of women in technology that centers solely around gender. … I grew up in a world which disdained the idea that a boy might want to sit and read a book for pleasure or that there was any real value into what could be done with a computer. Books were for girls and computers were for nerds; real men played sports, hunted and fished.”
Some comments were defensive: “I am a female industrial engineer who never felt like a woman in a man’s world. … I quit work to raise my children and I don’t regret it at all. … I am one of the reasons that there are less women in executive positions. My executive position is in my household, invested in raising my own children.”
Some commenters thought Mauldin’s remarks were all words, no action: “Are you calling out your male colleagues when they make sexist remarks, or act out their misogynist attitudes in other ways? How are you using your position of privilege to support women in their fight for equality?”
Some thought he exaggerated: “‘Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills.’ This statement is so far from the truth, I find it amusing. … Our culture is poised so strongly in support of females I find the very fact that someone utters this as proof of a disconnect with reality.”
And those were the more academically-rooted comments from “The Easterner’s” website.
Here are some of the more appropriate Huffington Post comments:
“And he probably ‘gets it’ on a regular basis’” (in response to praising Mauldin for his understanding of women engineers’ situations).
“Being male is a total cake walk. Success is given to men straight out of the womb. If a woman succeeds it is only because she worked harder than everyone else — no other causes/effects” (from a commentator throwing far too much shade).
“What about when women are treated and graded easier on projects and tests? I am an engineering student at Michigan State University and you would be amazed how different (better) women get treated than men” (I don’t know what to say to this).
My take — as someone who regularly attends women’s events and initiatives and meets with business owners, educators, board members and more — is that our answer to closing the gender gap is to get more men involved.
Mauldin’s letter is an exemplary piece, written by someone who no doubt truly does understand, because he listens to the experiences of the women in his life. And my guess is yes, he is involved, and not for any self-serving purposes.
This is the voice that will close the gender gap — the fact that our society still deems to criticize, diminish and attempt to silence it is proof enough that the gap still matters.