UTS has just announced that it’s lowering its ATAR requirements for engineering, computing and construction degrees by a whopping 10 points, just for female high school applicants. It’s supposed to be a move to empower women into choosing male-dominated degrees, in the hopes of evening out the gender gap.
The thing is though, it’s actually kinda sexist and doesn’t really address the root cause of these issues.
Director for UTS Women in Engineering and IT Arti Agarwal reckons that it’s a good move for female students, and it’s not tokenistic or giving out ‘a free pass’.
She makes the fair point that ATARs often don’t indicate students’ grades at uni.
“We looked at the performance of ATAR and the performance of [grade point average] so a lower ATAR did not mean they would get a lower GPA. A higher ATAR did not mean they were best in the class,” she told the Guardian.
She goes on to point out that heaps of engineering students get in to uni with alternative pathways anyway, so it’s not a huge deal to lower the ATAR requirement.
If you think the best way to get more women into engineering is to lower the standards, aren’t you kind of openly saying you think female engineers aren’t as good as male engineers
— Godot (@GodotIsW8ing4U) August 29, 2019
Here’s the thing though – rather than being empowering for women, it just reinforces the sexist notion that women are just not as capable as men. It’s a pretty open statement that they don’t think female students can obtain the same grades as male students, so they’re making it easier.
It’s pretty BS because actually, because more women finish uni and get degrees than men, and while they are unlikely to study male dominated areas, there are cases in which when they do, they study at higher levels. Just a couple of years ago, female GPs finally outnumbered male GPs.
In the US, women earned majority of doctoral degrees for the 9th year in a row in 2017.
The point is, this isn’t about women not being smart enough to get into these degrees. Women aren’t going into male-dominated degrees not because they can’t keep up, but because of the uncomfortable, hostile and sexist environments created by these degrees.
Sexism Against Women Is Why They Leave These Degrees
A study talked to over 1400 women who had left the engineering field, to see why. Unsurprisingly, it was about the unfair and poor treatment of women in these industries, and the lack of job prospects or appreciation for their hard work. Basically, they just felt like no one really gave a fuck about them.
Me calling out UTS for making women feel like they aren’t smart enough.
There are heaps of studies and articles that constantly talk about the microaggressions and subtle stressors against women in male-dominated fields that come from sexism.
Rather than treating women like they aren’t as capable as men and reinforcing sexist ideas, there needs to be a focus on actually changing the environments and attitudes that push women away from these fields. If we tackle the sexism and misogyny that women have to face surrounded by men who think they aren’t worthy, then more women would actually study these degrees.
UTS lowering their ATAR requirements without actually acknowledging why women don’t do these degrees just feels like a cop out. While it’s great that they’re focused on getting more women into these degrees, it’s not going to get anywhere unless they see the whole picture.
It’s not about women’s intelligence. It’s about how much shit they have to put up with. Maybe if we stopped blaming the lack of women in the field on women, and started actually addressing the rampant sexism that keeps them out, we would make some progress.
Image Sources: CBS, GIPHY, Twitter @@GodotIsW8ing4U