It is 2019. I am studying engineering from the comfort of my home. Neither my intentions nor my abilities have been seriously questioned so far, at least not due to my gender.
A very different story from a century ago, when women studying science or engineering were only awarded certificates of completion instead of degrees. Because they were women.
I am perpetually baffled by the fact that this used to be a reality not that long ago. The MIT and the Ecole Polytechnique only started admitting female students in the lifetime of my parents! These are reputable institutions, pillars of science research and development, run by brilliant minds, yet not enlightened enough to see the absurdity of gender discrimination. Their open mind led them to exploring and discovering the fascinating world that we live in, yet they were not open minded enough to see that science and technology is not a man’s game. It is for all. Therefore, one doesn’t have to be open minded to see that women and men are just as capable and brave. One has to simply live in order to observe this.
I started my journey into engineering in 2017. I am a trained linguist and philologist, I have always loved languages and I draw great pleasure from translating. However, this never felt enough. Although dynamic and fascinating, languages do not seem to evolve with the same “boom” as science. While being inherent to us as humans, they did not provide me with a sense of leaving something behind.
It was logical to me that I had to go at the confluence of science, mathematics and technology and feast on the never-ending cascade of knowledge and discoveries. And here I am. Befriending a wild horse whose name used to scare me – Calculus. Playing with vectors and exponentially growing my arsenal of formulas and theorems. Putting my once poetic creativity to work, finding solutions with the help of science.
And it should be easy for me, as a woman of the 21st century. Many women before me paved what should be a smooth road, without the discrimination, without the complexes and without the downright mockery that they had to be subjected to.
I have occasionally sampled the ignorance of people when it comes to a woman “getting her hands dirty”, while working alongside my husband in his heating and plumbing business. It is puzzling that the source of this ignorance is generally other women. Centuries of being cast into restrictive moulds have shaped the female consciousness in a way that is incongruent with reality. My belief is that this is where we have to concentrate our efforts, more than proving gender equality to men. Proving it to ourselves.
Yes, we are the sum of our ambitions and doubts, but these are two vectors with opposite directions. Our ambition must be to play a significant part in the positive changes taking place in the world. We must understand that all those things which are seen as disadvantages, are nothing but qualities that we put to good use every day as women and mothers.
I hope to be part of the last generation of women who doubt themselves, and my ultimate goal as an engineer is to inspire my children. I want my daughters to understand that they don’t have to choose between tiaras and building blocks. Go and build a bridge and feel beautiful while you’re doing it! Go and change the world in your pretty dress!
This is the impact that I am hoping to achieve and I am very optimistic for the future. I believe that all of us together can remove the last of the obstacles and empower the next generations of women to claim their place in the transformation of our world.