Undergrad Thermodynamics

From Georgia P. Burdell

A year ago, I took an undergraduate thermodynamics course which was taught by a woman. She had what most would call a successful life: she had a PhD in mechanical engineering, could speak four languages, was a great professor working at one of the top engineering schools in the US, and was raising a family to boot.

While teaching one day, she offhandedly mentioned how she used to work in a car garage when she was a teenager. At this point most of the guys in the class began to laugh. She stopped and asked, “What’s so funny?”

There was silence, followed by one brave (foolish?) voice which replied, “Well, you’re a girl.”

“And?” she asked.

“Well, it’s just girls don’t work in garages.” Oh, of course. How obvious. The idea of this woman having worked in a garage was laughably impossible, inappropriate, or at the very least, surprising.

I don’t remember how she countered his reply as I was in shock over how collective and “obvious” this reaction had been. Are females pursuing STEM careers just as laughable to them?

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