I believe that at present, in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, it is desirable to have gender-exclusive events. In the past women have been undermined in these fields and having such events would benefit them by creating a fair and level playing ground. However, I am in no way suggesting that such events should restrict the interactions between men and women. Doing so would prove to be a loss to society. It is important that people from both genders are able to interact as that is what gives rise to a healthy society. What I’m trying to convey here is the significance of such events in providing women a space where they feel they are encouraged – a platform which can give them a push so that they are equals to their male counterparts in society.
Women have always been under-represented in these fields – both in education and the workforce. As per statistics for 2017 published by the Faculty of Engineering here at the University of Waterloo, the percentage of women in the freshmen class was 30.1%, and the percentage of undergraduate women was 27%. Though the environment is inclusive, the lower percentage indicates that these fields have yet to garner the competencies that women can bring to these programs. Gender-exclusive events help women meet other women. This has many advantages:
- Due to the cohort system that Waterloo engineering follows, students tend to take a large bulk of their courses with their classmates over the near 5-year period of their degree. This makes it difficult to meet women from other programs more frequently. Gender-exclusive events, be it social or educational, help solve this.
- They help women connect with upper-years from in and outside their programs who can offer guidance and support from their experiences. This provides insight into dealing with difficult situations and mentorship from people who have walked this path before.
- By offering a place for women to socially interact with one another, they can build on the industry experience of other women and learn how to better meet workplace challenges.
Not so long ago, women were not encouraged to enter and make progress in these fields. The now infamous Google Echo Chamber memo shows that these ideas are still very much alive in parts of society. While the research done by the author of the memo and the scientific accuracy of his findings are questionable, if we were to even consider giving him the benefit of doubt, then, such events would help bring women at par to their counterparts in society, as many of these events provide training and collaborative work to put young women out there. Such instances have the potential of creating a negative impact on the minds of young girls who want to join the field. To overcome the damage such experiences have brought on, gender-exclusive events help give women the additional push to help bridge the gap that was created. They provide reassurance that there exist women who have made it in the field or who are willing to stay in the field.
Hence, there is a need for gender-exclusive events to take place.