An Open Letter to Female Engineering Students

Just 18 percent of all students enrolled in college engineering programs are female. . (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Jared Mauldin caused a stir recently on Facebook when a letter to the editor he penned for his school newspaper was shared online. Mauldin, a senior mechanical engineering major at Eastern Washington University, began his letter: "To the women in my engineering classes." He then went on to explain why he feels that his female peers are not his equals.

But don't worry, it's not what you think. In fact, Mauldin went on to pen a pointedly honest and feminist observation of the experiences of women in that field. After pronouncing that he didn't think the women in his classes are his peers, he explained why:

"I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science," Mauldin wrote. "Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills."

Mauldin wrote that he didn't grow up in a world in which he was judged by his physical appearance and he was not overlooked by teachers in his science and math classes. You can read the full letter here.

Not surprisingly, Mauldin's letter has turned him into a minor celebrity on Facebook. But even that recognition, he realizes is only coming to him because he is a man.

"Women who do voice these issues gain no attention for it. I mean, nothing I said is groundbreaking news; women have been outspoken about it for a very long time. Yet, the second I said something, boom," Mauldin explained to me via Facebook.

Mauldin has received plenty of feedback for his letter, most of which he describes as overwhelmingly positive. But, then, of course there have been the trolls. And Mauldin notes that these negative commenters actually prove his point and give him even further insight into the issue:

"An interesting side effect of this letter is that while I had no idea what it felt like to experience any of the stuff women do before I wrote this letter, and I still have no idea what it feels like to experience it "as a woman", it has been an enlightening experience to have my motives, intelligence, sexuality, character and goals dictated to me by other men," Mauldin told me.

Still, Mauldin is glad he wrote the letter. And judging from the responses he's received, so are the thousands of women in engineering fields around the country.