Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Women in Engineering and STEM Fields

Right now, only 18-20% of engineering students are women, and only 15% of the engineering workforce is complied of women. This is an improvement over the 1980's where just over 5% of women were engineers. But why is engineering still such a heavily male dominated field? Why have women been prevented in making major change in this boys club?

Some different Ideas are currently being explored including, but not limited to:
  • How Math attitudes from an early age associate Male with Math making it harder for women to associate themselves with Math and STEM: There is a disconnect with technology and the idea of women 
  • Lack of Role Models in Science=Lack of confidence in abilities
    • A self fulfilling prophecy: girls believe they can't be good at math, therefore they aren't 
  • The way people 'do/perform' gender. The way women feminize engineering by centering it around helping people, making it socially acceptable for them to participate
    • This prevents acceptance of women into more technical engineering fields, preventing advancements 
I am looking for more information about how society stereotypes prevent women from making the engineering choice: why is this choice so much harder for females?  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Invisible Effects of Poverty

In Barbara Ehrenreich's novel, Nickel and Dimed, she highlights various effects of being poor. Due to lack of income, the working poor are forced to face countless hardships including exhaustion and dehumanizing decisions.

While settling down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ehrenreich attains jobs at Menards and Walmart. After enduring a 8 hour Walmart Orientation, Ehrenreich refuses to attend her first day on the job at Menards even though it is the better paying job, "The embarrassing truth is that I am just too exhausted to work, especially for eleven hours in a row" (149). Most members of the working class do not have the privilege of the safety net Ehrenreich has and could not make that decision. They would have to peel themselves off the bed and go work a repulsive eleven hour shift to provide for themselves or their families. Due to the constant stress of money shortages, working class push their bodies past the healthy limits trying to make ends meet.

The dehumanization of laborers was one of the harshest effects of industrialization. However, workers are not only dehumanized in the workplace. Again, due to lack of money, Ehrenreich has to sacrifice basic civilized instincts in her home. One such example was finding of surface to eat off of, "Eating is tricky without a table. I put the food on the chest of drawers and place a plastic supermarket bag over my lap" (159-160). Drawers for a table, a plastic bag for a tablecloth. Ehrenreich is doing the best she can to provide for herself. However, coming from a well off lifestyle, this must feel unnatural and unnerving. When a basic function such as eating becomes a project, other emotional human parts of you are shut down to satisfy your basic human needs.

Ehrenreich concludes her novel stating, "To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else" (221).  If you are a 'member' of a class of people constantly trying to please others, when do you become a priority? To constantly work in the service of others is frustrating and is perpetuates the notion that one class is set above the other and somehow more worthy of such a lifestyle. To be 'anonymous' and 'nameless' is to be stripped of ones identity. Our capitalistic society has been built on the abuse and dehumanization of vulnerable and desperate workers.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On Making Nickels and Dimes

In the Novel Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich chooses jobs in order to provide 'daily bread'. However, her drive to always perform to the best of her ability allows her feel useful to the extent her executives allow.

Ehrenreich was raised on the working motto, "If you're going to do something, do it well. In fact, "well" isn't good enough by half. Do it better than anyone has ever done it before" (18). Ehrenreich is driven to succeed in not only writing but in any menial job performed. She finds meaning by completing tasks 'better than anyone has ever done it before'. She pushes herself above and beyond expectations set by superiors, she wishes to do well for herself: to find a sense of personal accomplishment.

While serving in Maine, Ehrenreich feels a personal attachment and obligation to her customers. She often sets high personal expectations, "Sometimes I play with the fantasy that I am a princess who, in penance for some tiny transgression, has undertaken to feed each of her subjects by hand" (19). Ehrenreich is finding meaning in serving by using her imagination to infuse her position with more power and responsibility. She dramatizes the situation by calling herself 'princess' and customers 'subjects'. She increases the stakes of her job by undertaking the task of 'feeding each subject by hand'. By increasing the accountability of her job and striving to achieve these goals, she allows her work to feel necessary and rewarding. Ehrenreich does not just show up to work wanting to just complete the tasks at hand and go home. By giving her customers extra croutons and kind polite greetings, she's not only doing an excellent job, she's also fulfilling a personal satisfaction.

As much as Ehrenreich strives to succeed, she is often hindered by rules and executive regulations. While working for a maids service in Maine, she is directly to clean with a damp rag and remove impurities only visible to the eye: to wipe. Because Ehrenreich was brought up to clean with boiling hot water, she remarks, "But the point at The Maids, apparently, is not to clean so much as to create the appearance of having been cleaned, not to sanitize but to create a kind of stage setting for family life" (76). The instructions of the maid service dissatisfied and irritated her to the point where she researched and asked professionals on correct cleaning techniques (shown in the same footnote as the quote above).  Her irritation is visible through words such as 'appearance' and 'stage setting'. She is not satisfied with creating a fake setting. It angers her that just going through pointless motions and not doing a quality cleaning job of 'sanitation'. The cleaning job feels pointless and she looses her sense of usefulness. She cannot feel accomplished in this line of service work because she knows her work is not really helping actually clean the house. Because her bosses are more worried about money, time, and customer satisfaction, Ehrenreich is not able to apply her drive to make her cleaning job feel important.

Throughout Ehrenreich's service line work, we see her try to attack each day with fervor and a natural wish to please her customers. However, restrictive rules and regulations from higher up prevent her from fully satisfying her personal goals to achievement.