In response to a comment from a reader, I am inspired to write this post. My anonymous reader says that although she is fiercely passionate about mechanical engineering and metallurgy, guys seem to prefer social girls over technical ones. Her last boyfriend even left her for someone who worked in the fashion industry!
At the risk of sounding like a magazine agony-aunt, let me have my two-cent’s worth on this topic.
In my personal experience and from what others have told me, guys generally tend to be very intimidated by a woman who is in a highly technical field. Now here I am talking about guys who you’d meet at the gym or at a party, not guys at work (they are intimidated for other reasons but we’re not going to go there in this post). I have had a guy at a part flat-out admit that I being an engineer was “actually quite intimidating”. Soon after that, he made some excuse and left to talk to a far more fun-looking girl. I, for one am convinced that guys are intimidated by smart or technically-focused women.
So, what to do about it?
#1 Be more fun and sociable.
This is what most young, female engineers feel they need to do to attract men. Please girls, don’t think this way. For one, we are not naturally the life of the party. Not only are we – for the most part – more inclined to being introverted or socially awkward, but we also have serious studies and careers to think about. We just can’t afford to spend three nights a week entertaining ourselves and others. But we also know its going to pay off…and soon! If a guy can’t handle you the way you are – then its just not meant to be. Sorry.
#2 Understand the man
Let’s take a minute to think about why a man might be intimidated by an engineer woman. Our Society is a funny thing that tends to put us all into neat little boxes. That’s how it operates most efficiently. From the time we’re small children, little boys are given plastic screwdrivers and buckets, and little girls are presented with curly-haired dolls. This follows us our whole lives through as everyone and everything around us reinforces these ideals placing us under massive pressure to succumb to these norms as child-bearers and care-givers. Engineering women however – necessarily strong willed, independent, high-earning and technical – go against the grain of some really deep-seated beliefs. Can we really blame these poor guys for fearing us?
(My folks gave my sisters and I Lego and puzzles instead of dolls resulting in two engineers and one graphic designer. Thank you mum and dad!)
#3 Move in the right circles
As much as you don’t want to hear this, perhaps you would find more relationship success with others of your own species? I don’t just mean technical men and engineers, but anyone who has a similar status in Society and earning-potential. As most engineers are destined to become managers, a man may feel uncomfortable knowing that you are more likely to take care of him than him taking care of you. The male ego should never be ignored (refer to the paragraph above) and as a professional, it’s only natural to want to nest up with someone you can relate to. Although incredibly difficult to give up an existing relationship, if you are looking for a new one perhaps consider hanging about the chemical engineering building at lunch or getting your friends to introduce you to an up-and-coming businessman. Word of advice: as tempted as you may be, stay away from the management consultants! Trust me; it’s just not worth it.
#4 Timing, timing, timing
These days, as the world moves away from traditional notions which made early-marriage a necessity, professionals –men and women – are choosing to get married later on in life. Young, successful professionals realize that the world is theirs for the taking and no parent or pastor has the sway to force you to settle down early anymore. This means that us young, career-focused ladies may have to change our ideas of being single or dating (instilled by our conservative mothers) and embrace our extended freedom and youth!
This is a double-win for us. Not only will we have complete freedom to chase our careers and dreams without the burden of kids and a husband, achieving more success in life as a result, but when we do decide to seriously look for a mate, we will be more mature, sure of who we are and what we want, and will – if we’re smart – have created a large network of industry professionals to launch our search! (Who said LinkedIn was just for job-hunting?)
So I hope to have hit home on some points which other young, professional women – especially engineers – have to deal with. What’s interesting is that in many places in the world, women right now are at a turning point full of excitement and uncertainty. We are the generation to write the rules for women in this field so it’s bound to be a little rough as Society settles into having this new species of females around.