Thursday, September 10, 2009

“Anonymous was a woman”-unknown

This was a quote I found last year and wrote down just because it amused me at the time. Initially I thought it was referring to inventions and ideas from back when a woman’s place was in the home. But Barb and I were running a trivia game for the engineering frosh this week and one of our questions was about men and women being equally skilled in math except that girls had less confidence in their abilities. This got me thinking that a lot of times anonymous is still a woman because a lot of girls are still hesitant about their abilities and don’t step up and share their ideas. Girls still sit in class and try not to get noticed, maybe mutter the answer under their breath or scribble it on their page without raising their hand or shouting out the answer. I’ve even caught myself doing this and I’d say a have a fairly healthy self esteem.

CuWISE has always advertised as offering mentoring and support for current students, any time I hear this my gut reaction is to expect some upper year or grad student genius sitting at a desk with a scared first year or myself trying to get up the courage to ask for help with past experiences causing them to expect to be made to feel inferior. This is by no means always the case or even mostly the case with these types of programs. But I think it’s at least as important if not more so to have a support network including groups of people who don’t set out to be the teacher or mentor but are just there. The groups of students who you can relate to that have gone through and are still going through the same things you are.

I’ve always been shy and if I didn’t really know anyone in class I would go out of my way to have to ask a stranger for help because I always seemed to think that everyone else just got it, that no one else was struggling with material or time management or anything else. It was joining groups like WISE that made me realise that other students were struggling too. It’s the offhand remarks made after events when people are just hanging about that made me realise that I wasn’t alone in my struggles and that it is possible to get through them.

So my advice to all the first year students and everyone else too, is to get involved. Even if WISE is not the group for you, it is your involvement in those not for credit clubs and activities that will make your stay at university memorable and likely play a big role in helping you get through it as well.