Monday, 20 April 2015

Equal Pay Day: From a Female Future Engineer

April 20th. It's Equal Pay Day today.

The United Nations recently released a statement that at its current rate, we will not close the gender gap for seventy years. Currently worldwide, a woman earns seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns. In the UK, a woman without children earn 25% higher than one with two children. (I myself am one of two.)

Yes, I'm entering a STEM field. High expectations for one wrongly pressed button on the calculator can cost one hundred and fifty lives. About one in every four of my classmates is female. "Why did you go into engineering?" "I guess I like Chemistry, and it has good pay." "Why did you go into engineering?" "To make fossil fuels history." In the United States, for a dollar a male computer hardware engineer makes, a woman makes eighty-four cents. For a dollar a male computer software engineer makes, a woman earns eighty-eight cents. In the United Kingdom, by the age of 40 a female chemical engineer receives 75 percent of what a male chemical engineer receives in pay.

75 percent? By the grading systems I've lived with, a B. 84 cents of one hundred? An A-. 88 cents of 100? A. The only problem with such gradings is that the peers and I are not ranked by the same test.

Do I want to live my entire career - or life, considering that the average life expectancy for women in Ontario was 84 as of 2009 and I could be 88 by the time we are likely to advance against the gender gap - earning less than a male counterpart? No way. Do I want my salary to suggest I was taught fewer concepts than male classmates sitting in the seat next to me in every lecture hall I attended? No way. I put the word 'dread' to the gender gap.

It's not just I and the friends I've made in my courses these past eight months or my industrial engineering aunt almost completing a year of work at her new company, having been laid off at her previous company after returning from her second maternity leave. I went out to lunch this week with a very close friend studying Health Sciences. I've been cheering on a twelfth-grade friend via email as she aims for a spot at the University of Toronto's Rotman. Executives in an organization I'm also an executive for studying subjects such as History. Do I want to see their futures lagging behind those of male job applicants or male coworkers for their gender? Not a single bit.

There is nothing impatient about not wanting to wait until my five-month-old cousin - my very first female Canadian cousin with an electrical engineer for a dad - turns seventy. The change is well-overdue by decades. Three years and I'll be ready for my first full-time job. After its acceptance will come the other milestones of adulthood: first paycheque of my new job, thirteenth paycheque of the job, first apartment alone, first money deposited for retirement and if the highway's commuters shift to a future relief line and growth increases exponentially in the renewable, maybe buy my first and solar-panel-run car. (Taking the subway is actually cheaper, so I may stick to it.) Financially it should not be harder for me than a male person sitting in my lecture halls unless they were born with engineering knowledge. Financially it should not be harder for any woman on this planet and a male counterpart.

What do I do for now? The answer is easy for now. I enter my exam tomorrow (Yes, I'm blogging the night before an exam.) where I'm sure I will not be asked easier questions than a male friend. Fast forward a few years and I've slipped on my iron ring, however . . . the words of a former teacher echoing in my head about women's participation in the Sciences at a time when I had first considered entering the Sciences and only a few months before I suddenly pieced together my vision of my future engineering career, my determination that I would stay unstoppable . . . "Science needs you . . ."

- FA

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