Women advance in technical jobs

Holly Mueller

Sue Lamb, a graduate student specializing in engineering technology and automated manufacturing, said she isn’t bothered by being the only female in her Computer Integrated Manufacturing class.

“I just do what I love to do,” she said. “It probably bothers men more.”

David Harper, sophomore general technology major, however, said he isn’t bothered by the few women in the technology program because he doesn’t associate with them.

“I don’t talk to them, I just go to class,” he said.

The trend of more men than women being in technology is common, said Lamb, who was the first woman engineer hired at her current job.

Women make up 14.7 percent of the College of Technology, and men make up the other 85.3 percent of undergraduates, according to the Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Department of Kent State.

Although male students outnumber their female counterparts in technology, there are many women who receive a lot better grades, said Jie Chen, graduate coordinator and assistant professor.

Gonul Arslan, a graduate student from Istanbul specializing in computer technology with a 3.84 grade point average, said she doesn’t feel uncomfortable being one of the only girls in her classes.

Arslan said she thinks a lot of people still feel computer engineering is a skill women can’t do, “but I don’t agree with them, obviously.”

These stereotypes about women are still seen today, said Verna Fitzsimmons, an associate professor in the College of Technology. Fitzsimmons said girls and boys grow up differently, and girls don’t get to play with technological toys and processes like boys do – “or so girls think.”

Fitzsimmons continued to say girls learn about technology just as much as boys do.

“We (girls) grow up helping our moms make candy, which is molding, which is what we do here,” said Fitzsimmons. “We just mold metal instead of candy.”

As much as stereotypes exist in the United States, it is interesting to realize this inequality is not seen in all parts of the world, Chen said. In China, men and women are equally pushed to study technology, Chen added.

Chen continued to say in the United States, the field of technology is still mostly male.

“The myth seems to be more girls are handicapped at technology in the United States,” Chen said. “Like I’m a girl, and I’m not supposed to be good at it.”

On the other hand, Jessica Tinker, sophomore general technology major, grew up in an environment that promoted technology – her father is a Kent State technology alumnus who encouraged her to study in his field.

In fall 2005, Tinker changed her nursing major to technology. She said she thought it would be a smart move because she knew a lot of people in the industry.

Even though her major switch is still new, Tinker said she feels comfortable in classes dominated by males.

“In the lab, I know more than some of the guys do,” she said.

Although the negative stereotype is common, many Kent State males actually enjoy the female company.

Nolan Quade, a fifth-year senior general technology major and Tinker’s classmate, said there was one girl in one of his classes when he was a freshman.

“It was kind of cool. She broke up the testosterone,” Quade said.

Peter Lontor, senior general technology major, said the stereotypes are also present among males in the technology field. Lontor said other students usually think of technology majors to be “big guys, big football players.”

It was a shock at first for Lontor to see girls in his classes during his freshman and sophomore years, but it turns out the girls are regular students just like the guys, he said.

Contact College of Technology reporter Holly Mueller at [email protected]