Do you feel like you are treated any differently as a woman at MIT?Do you feel like you are treated any differently as a woman at MIT?
No, I don’t see any discrepancies between treatment of men and women. I’ve always found MIT to be an open and accepting place. If women’s rights were a big issue, people would stand up for it just like any other big issue.
-Jessica L. Fry ’03
I think it depends on what major you are taking and the ratio of men to women in a particular class. If women are the smaller percentage, sometimes I personally feel like I have to prove myself to guys and pressure to achieve at the same level.
-Ruby Lau ’04
No, not because of my own limitations, but maybe in terms of the lack of women role models here.
-Luwam Semere ’01
Not really. In a way almost, women are treated better.
-Kelly N. Zimmerman ’04
My mom went here when there were only 100 women at MIT, and I’m sure it was a different experience for her. Things have changed a lot since then. For me, I don’t feel like I am treated any different because I am female.
-Miriam Sorell ’04
What do you think of a major being called a “girl” major?
It is said about both Course VII and IX. That’s offensive because people think of them as being less rigorous. We think differently. Therefore, different subjects appeal to us. Course IX is a more people-related major and stereotypically women are more interested in psychological or interpersonal studies.
-Bree Huning ’98
The stereotypes are V, VII, all the less math-y ones. It’s more a general observation that people make and comment about. I’m impressed by VI-1, VI-2, and XVI girls because they’re going against the status quo.
-Jacob H. Gregerson ’03
I’ve heard it a lot. It’s based on the truth, but people assume women will be premed, VII, III, or IX.
-Victoria K. Anderson ’02
Has the 9:1 faculty gender skew intimidated you at all?
I’d like it to be different but it hasn’t really affected me. I’m surprised to hear that, which may reflect that it’s not an issue for me.
-Anne A. Dreyer ’03
What expectations, assumptions, and stereotypes have you encountered regarding women at MIT? Is there sexism at MIT?
I don’t feel [sexism] at all. Sometimes, however, I do wonder. Some people think that women can get into MIT more easily than males. I would like to think that I got into this school on my own merits.
I haven’t experienced explicit sexism, but most of the sexism is left unsaid. In conversations you can feel sexism, but you can’t directly see sexism in general.
If a class has a lot of girls, people will expect the average to be lower.
There was a feeling that women weren’t serious, would just get married, that they were wasting a slot.
-Elisabeth M. Drake ’58
Taking 7.012, like everyone else has to, I would be asked if I was a biology major. I abhorred biology. In nuclear science, I’m often asked if I’m a premed because that’s the discipline that the women in nuclear engineering are often in.
I received a lot of surprise while taking 8.03. I don’t see why my being interested in physics should surprise anyone more than if someone else was.
They’re usually very determined and goal-oriented. They tend to stress a little more than most girls. Or people in general.
-Alex Patino ’03
There was an idea that women couldn’t succeed as professional engineers. Scientists could succeed in labs but not as faculty. Women were tolerated.
Do you think there is gender equality for women at MIT?
In terms of student life, I can see a difference in the experiences of women versus males. There are fewer living group options open to women which could play a factor. Also, the academic fields chosen by males and females could be very different in terms of career and family plans.
-Jaime E. Devereaux ’02
Undergraduate Association President-Elect
In general, I think we’re getting closer to general equality. I’ve never experienced gender inequality, but I’m sure it’s there. Compared to where I come from, MIT is very liberal and equal.
Outside of the classroom I think there is more gender equality. If inequality does exist, it is more in classes than in daily life.
How do you think the experience of being a woman at MIT differs from the experience of being a woman at another school?
Being a person at MIT differs from being a person at another college. If anything, it makes women feel more comfortable to be intelligent. Still, it’s OK for a woman to be smart if you have horn-rimmed glasses, plain hair, and your wardrobe hasn’t realized that the 70s are over. If your chest is too big and you have blonde hair, though, you must be an idiot.
Being in such a male-organized environment, you start to not notice. I took classes where I was the only girl. In the first one I was surprised, but by the third, I didn’t even notice.
MIT is a very insulated place. When you get out into the world, you realize it’s not as big a part of your life. MIT doesn’t support its students as well as it should, given the pressures. Women face more of those pressures because they are out of their comfort zone.
I became totally work-focused. Later I was very successful, but incredibly stressed. I became an alcoholic. I was in work addiction mode. I was the vice president of Arthur D. Little and a member of the National Academy, and a homeless bag-lady in Central Square. I missed a lot of my life.
Do you think that being at MIT has changed your role in anyone’s eyes as a potential future wife and mother?
Being in the Society of Women Engineers has made me realize that plenty of women engineers don’t get married or have kids. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to but makes me more aware.
Having graduated and gone out into the world, I know that it changes a guy’s opinion of you for dating. They’re very intimidated. I avoid telling them I went to MIT.
MIT women will feel like they’re letting themselves down. It starts becoming an issue after you graduate.
What is a woman today? How do you balance being strong, independent, and focusing on yourself with being feminine, caring, and keeping the focus away on yourself. Is it OK to want to take care of someone else?
Do you think that MIT women would be more likely to have an abortion than women at other schools?
I think so, MIT women tend to be more career-driven and would probably think that having a child right now would not be the best thing for them.
If the guy is from MIT, abortion is likely, because he can’t be there for you. He’s too wrapped up in his own thing. People who had kids here have had their relatives move up to help them care for the child.
There would be more pressure because the academic stress here would make it seem like more of an interruption or mistake to get pregnant, so the chances are higher here.
What do you think of competition with BU and Wellesley girls?
MIT girls think MIT guys see others as more desirable for relationships. College guys are superficial. BU has a larger population where the focus is not on being intelligent and studious. Often you’ll have a set of beautiful women and a set of intelligent women, and the chances of you finding a subset that fits both categories are not high. MIT girls wind up feeling undervalued.
MIT women resent the fact that Wellesley women are seen as more attractive when guys only see them dressed up on the weekend, while seeing us at 9 a.m. in pajamas. The attitude MIT girls take is “Fine, if he wants a Wellesley girl, then he can just talk to a moron.”
MIT co-eds were considered subhuman then. Fraternity guys all focused on Wellesley women, not weirdo MIT types.
Compiled by Eun J. Lee and Jennifer Young