Category Archives: Women’s and Gender Studies

A Space for Me

Minerva presenting at the Radical Imaginations Conference on the panel ” Feminist Radical Imaginations: Marches and Revolutions” with Andrea Haverkamp, Carolina Melchor, Maria Lenzi Miori, Minerva Zayas, and Nasim Basiri

Everyone handles their personal growth differently, and for many finding an identity category can lead to feelings of comfort and an opportunity to find community. However, for folks who identify with more than one category or find identity in LGBTQ+ categories may find difficulty navigating their identity in spaces that have been shaped by the heteronormative majority. Moreover, for people of color, retaining identity in their culture might add another layer of complexity to navigating the path to their goals. Our guest this week, Minerva Zayas a Master’s student in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, is interested in how folks who identify as LatinX and LGBTQ+ navigate the intersection of these identities, especially in university spaces. In particular, Minerva is asking how LatinX, LGBTQ+ individuals engage in a system that has historically catered to white heteronormative college students. Minerva, speaking from personal experience, expects that University life offers little tailored support systems for folks of color who identify as ‘other,’ but that a university campus might offer opportunities to build a support systems that other institutions might lack: the opportunity to participate in a campus cultural/lifestyle community and engage in activism.

Minerva presenting at Corvallis Poetics Open Mic Night on the poem, “My worst NightMare” at Interzone Inc.

Minerva participating in a creative photo session in downtown Corvallis, OR.

For her Master’s, Minerva will conduct interviews with LatinX, LGBTQ+ students and ask questions than run the gamut of identity in sexuality, culture, community, and activism. She hopes to highlight their experiences and examine themes that arise. In addition to her research, Minerva, a poet herself, plans to extend her project in a creative way, ideally through a podcast. After completing her Master’s, Minerva hopes to complete a PhD and has considered becoming a counselor for Spanish-speaking folks. This aim coincides with her mission to bring voice to folks who share identity with her in LatinX culture. Minerva ultimately wants institutions, academia and beyond, to be more inclusive and cognizant of minority identities, but she realizes that change comes from within. By pursuing her aspirations for a PhD and engaging in academia, she hopes that others who share her identity will be drawn to academia so that a system that has been shaped by the majority identity can grow to support all.

Tune in to KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM this Sunday May, 20 at 7 pm to hear more about Minerva’s research and personal journey to graduate school. Listeners, local and otherwise, can stream the live interview at kbvr.com/listen or find the podcast of Minerva’s episode next week on Apple Podcasts.

 

Workplace Woes for Women in Engineering

The human race has given rise to incredible engineering accomplishments. Some examples include an Egyptian pyramid with 2.3 million perfectly placed limestone blocks, the Great Wall of China that traverses difficult terrain and can be seen from space, or the more recent example of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, sending a sports car floating through space with re-usable rockets landing back on Earth to use for a future mission. It’s no surprise that the engineering field attracts the best and brightest among us because they are innovators, problem solvers, and basically all white males. Wait – What?

Four minutes into SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch, the manufacturing division was shown which has errily similar demographics to the NASA space race era. via @B0yle on Feb 6th 2018

During the celebration of the Falcon Heavy launch the SpaceX guys were shown jumping for joy at the technological milestones. The same way you cringe from an oncoming car with high beams is the same way many felt about the gender imbalance that was present in the 1970’s during the NASA days and continues to persists in one of the most innovative companies the world has ever seen. For example, the 2016 film Hidden Figures began to break that mold, detailing the story of female African-American mathematicians and engineers living in the south in the 1950’s who helped propel NASA to the moon, yet few knew or acknowledged their enormous role. Since their story remained in the shadows how could a young student believe ‘I too could be a female engineer’ if they believe it’s never been done before? One’s life expectations are shaped by what they see around them, and without role models that ‘look like me’ in positions of power, how can we expect for anything to change?

Gender gap in bachelor’s degrees awarded by field of study, 1969-2009. Figure 1. Courtesy of Legewie, J., and T. DePrete. 2014. The High School Environment and the Gender Gap in the Science and Engineering. Sociology of Education. 87(4):259-280.

Our guest this evening is Andrea Haverkamp, a 2nd year PhD student in the College of Engineering, who is asking what it means to think of yourself as an engineer, and examining how the engineering culture has perpetuated the lack of diversity we see today. Of the currently active engineering professionals approximately 90% are men, university engineering programs are nearly 80% male dominated. Herein lies the paradox; girls get better grades than their male counterparts from kindergarten through high school, girls have a similar level of STEM interest as their male counterparts early in their schooling career and within the last decade women outnumber men among college graduates. Unfortunately, women significantly lag behind men in college STEM degrees and only 1 out of 6 engineering degrees are received by women.

Andrea snuggling up with her beloved dog, Spaghetti.

Andrea’s research seeks to answer what happens in the engineering workplace that continues to be unwelcoming to women; but gender cannot be taken in isolation because there is a confluence of race, socioeconomic class, and potential disabilities that color our thought process that we cannot avoid. Her work also focuses on LGBT students and a broader, more expansive, theory of gender than has been used in prior engineering research. Furthermore she is using novel approach that breaks traditional boundaries in the social sciences field that she hopes to encourage her interviewees to become an active participant and empower them to become co-authors on future research papers. This method, Community Collaborative Research, was made popular by a researcher who lived in a prison to better relate to those people in his work. How can you expect to have female engineers rise through the ranks, if there are hardly any female engineers to look up to; can you see yourself become a superhero if you’re from an underrepresented minority? A recent pop-culture example is the release of the Marvel’s Black Panther; the first film with an all black cast, predominately black writers, and directors that celebrates black culture. Here is how one fan reacted from just seeing the poster [displaying the all black cast] “This is what white people get to feel all the time? Since the beginning of cinema, you get to feel empowered like this and represented? If this is what you get to feel like all the time I would love this country too!”

There is no silver bullet that will be an overnight fix for the gender imbalance in the workplace or the salary disparity between men and women in the same job. But there are some positive examples; such as some companies are taking concrete actions to get women into leadership roles, or how the Indian Space Agency (with a recent boom in women engineers) sent a rocket to Mars that was less expensive than the making of “The Martian! Through Andrea’s research we can at least begin to systematically answer the questions of how to develop a more inclusive culture for aspiring women engineers and workplaces alike. As Jorja Smith sings in the Black Panther soundtrack, “I know that we have asked for change. Don’t be scared to put the fears to shame…”

You can listen to the show at 7PM Sunday March 4th on 88.7FM or stream the show live online!

If you want to hear more from Andrea, she also hosts her own KBVR radio show called LaborWave every other Friday at 2PM. If you want to read more about Andrea’s field, she’s on the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace.