Recently, an accomplished and self-proclaimed “bossy woman” in security posted on her Facebook page a news item from media outlet InspireMore.com that immediately seized my attention. Its headline read, “‘You Are In Fact Unequal’ Engineering Student’s Letter to Woman Goes Viral.”
I wondered if this piece was going to get me riled or was just clickbait. I, for one, had never heard of InspireMore.com. Apparently, it is a media outlet started in 2014 to disseminate uplifting stories from around the world. This piece was about Eastern Washington engineering student Jared Mauldin’s “Letter to the Editor,” which he directed to “the women” in his engineering classes. He felt compelled to call out on this occasion how “unequal” he and his female classmates are. “I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science. Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills,” he wrote. And later on: “I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the ‘diversity hire.’ When I experience success, the assumption of others will be that I earned it.”
The letter was encouraging. Yes, it’s ironic that a note written by a man about women’s inequality in STEM-related fields went viral. Indeed, our Mauldin was quoted as saying his words were no different than those of feminist writers. “The distinguishing factor happens to be that I am a man. That is the problem.”
It is, but the more reflective woman in me also sees that a movement of unparalleled proportions is afoot. Yes, steps have been taken and huge strides made. Yet, it seems, more women globally are being louder, prouder, more assertive — demanding equality on every front. We are marching in D.C. and other cities. We’re sharing our #metoo stories. We’re running for government offices and winning. And, we’re flourishing and leading in an array of professions.
This is happening because of organized and sustained activism by all who understand living our lives as we wish without harming others is everyone’s choice, everyone’s right. And, while women experience pushback, as our WIS annual coverage shows, we also have the likes of Mauldin who understand that we’re starting from a place where we have to be strong from the jump. In a well-rooted patriarchal society, that is important. But, even more important than that evolution in some people’s thinking is the continuing advancement of women’s equality at all levels in all ways of daily life that have been hard won by our predecessors and will be championed by all the resilient, gifted, shrewd and “bossy” women in this industry and beyond.