Did you know that a girl studying science in college is not necessarily a biology major? And she might not want to be a teacher? I’m still trying to understand. Catherine says girls can study physics… even though it involves math. Looks like everyone around her is just as skeptical as I am – from her dentist to everyone who needs photocopies.
Actually, I am not a biology major
The summer after my freshman year I had my wisdom teeth removed. As IÂ was being put under general anesthetic, the dental surgeon asked meÂ where I was going to university and what I was studying. When IÂ replied, “Science”, he stated, “So, biology?”. I paused, confusedÂ about why he would say biology. Had I said that I was studyingÂ biology, or that he thought I was someone else? I intended to correctÂ him and tell him that I had recently declared my major in physics, butÂ I don’t think I got that far because the next thing I remember isÂ drooling on the window of my parent’s station wagon.
Last month, I defended my senior thesis. Next September I will beÂ starting a master’s degree with a concentration in quantumÂ cryptography. Although I am in a field that is dominated by men, IÂ have not experienced any sexism or sexual harassment because of it.Â Most of the time it’s pretty easy to forget that I’m in the minority,Â but every once in a while there are little reminders. For example, IÂ have known that I want to pursue a higher degree in science for a
while. However, when I asked my college advisor about what courses IÂ need to take to get in to grad school, he instead went on a tangentÂ about how you could easily get a job teaching high school with aÂ physics degree, or how it looked good on medical school applications.
There are more amusing situations, such as the countless freshman whoÂ have walked into my office and asked me to tell them where theirÂ lecture was, or if I could help them with the photocopier. It happensÂ almost exclusively in my office. My hypothesis is that the freshmenÂ think that I am a receptionist, since I am young, female, and myÂ office is on the first floor. The “not the physics office” sign on myÂ door has not changed anything, though.
This rant is not against a person or institution, but againstÂ assumptions. And even the assumptions made about me about completelyÂ reasonable. If a woman tells you she is studying science atÂ university, it is statistically probable that she’s studying biology.Â If she’s majoring in physics, it’s more likely she’s majoring in itÂ because she wants to go to medical school or become a teacher thanÂ because she wants to be a physicist. If you are a young woman with an
office on the first floor of the physics building, you are way moreÂ likely to be a receptionist or administrative staff than a student orÂ faculty member.
I already feel slightly insecure as about who I am and what myÂ interests are. It’s human nature to make assumptions, but every timeÂ you do, it reminds me that I don’t fit who you expect me to be. It’sÂ only going to get worse the further I go.
Catherine Holloway is a winner of a James Randi Educational Foundation scholarship and is working towards her MastersÂ of Science in Quantum Information from the University of Waterloo.
The Skepchick Reader Rants,Â posted every Wednesday at 3PM Eastern, is a feature where you, the Skepchick readers, get to tell the Skepchick community what you think about whatever you want! Â To be considered, please submit an original rant, preferably unpublished anywhere else, to skepchick(at)skepchick(dot)org with the subject: My Rant.