Jared Mauldin, a senior in mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University, has gone viral for a very thoughtful open letter he wrote for his school's newspaper, The Easterner. In the letter, he addresses the disparity in the numbers of men and women who study science, and the culture that discourages young girls from even trying. His letter is very well-written and earnest, and addresses a real problem. Its message has resonated not only because of this, but because it proves two points that don't always seem so obvious: 1) that some men understand and regret their privilege, and 2) that engineers have emotions.
Here's the full text of the letter:
To the women in my engineering classes:
While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.
Sure, we are in the same school program, and you are quite possibly getting the same GPA as I, but does that make us equal?
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.
In grade school I never had to fear being rejected by my peers because of my interests.
I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine.
I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender.
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.
So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.
Senior in Mechanical Engineering
What's so impressive about this letter is that it has no trace of condescension or grandstanding. He understands that he has an unfair advantage, and just wants to get it out in the open. He knows that whatever he accomplishes in his field, women who accomplish the same goals will have overcome more to do so. And he wants them to know he knows that.
At first, Mauldin's letter was only seen by people he knew and whoever reads his campus newspaper (nobody). But soon after, it was posted on the Internet and blew up big-time. On the Facebook page A Mighty Girl, it currently has more than 50,000 likes and more than 22,000 shares. It has also been covered in media outlets like Today.com.
Let's hope this letter keeps getting more attention, and that it inspires others in math and science to bring awareness to this issue. At a time when the US is desperate for more qualified scientists, engineers, and technical professionals, there's no reason for girls to be discouraged from getting involved just because of archaic stereotypes. The girls and young women of America need to know: if they dream big and work hard, they too can be arrested for building a clock.