Females in FRC

Moderator PSA: This particular post has gotten five flags now, which have been rejected by three different moderators. Feel free to flag a post later in the thread if it truly violates the rules, but this particular post is staying.

I guess I am just putting this post up to see if I am alone in this issue. I am a junior on my FRC team and have been on build for the last three years. I have countless stories and moments that make me feel like I am living in the 80s. Am I alone in this? Is my team just sexist or is the problem FRC as a whole. I have been on the drive team the last two years, so I have had a lot of contact with other teams. It seems like a lot of teams are still a boys club.

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I would first start off by having a conversation with your mentors about what is happening.

After this, I would recommend filing a NMIR Form, which will help to get people from outside of your team involved.

If you team is ran through a school, bring this up with school administration.

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Just to give you a little hope. Thirteen years ago fifteen students and myself - a female coach with NO engineering background, I am an IT kid - founded a team that was about 70/30 male to female. Over the years our ratios have fluctuated between 90/10 to 75/25. This year though…this year we are running 44/56 male to female. Everyone brings their own skills and talents to the team - male or female, red, purple, green (you get my point) - but to cross that line where we are running dang near 50/50? I couldn’t be happier.

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You are not alone.

Unfortunately, women in STEM will continue to be discriminated against until the socialization of children and the education that they receive changes. This has deep roots in education that can be traced back to Plato’s ideals for a Just State. If you want to read more, I can send you my Master’s Thesis.

The problem has been discussed many times on here. You have a variety of options, including seeking legal recourse if you so desire. Happy to chat privately if you want to.

Again, you are not alone and your experience is valid.

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I felt this way on my team until my junior year when we had a female captain. She had the girls do everything- but pushed the boys out. Then my senior year, it flopped back to the way it had been before her, but there was one girl who stood out because of what the captain had socially built the year before. Sometimes you just have to push your way through despite how hard it may seem.

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Can you give some general examples of what is happening so that we can better understand the situation? It is very hard to infer or guess what challenges you are facing, and our ability to actually comprehend the situation will be what our posts are based upon.

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This is such an important topic, I’m glad it’s being discussed again. For anyone’s reference, here is another related topic, where you might be able to find some useful resources/stories.

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I think it’s reasonable to assume the majority of FRC (and most STEM careers) is male. I’m not sure why (and I’m sure there are reasons why) but it is. There are 2 females on my team, and they are treated just as fairly as any male would be, and both our coaches are female and have done an amazing job this year. I would hope this is the way it is on all teams, but unfortunately, it might not be. Definitely talk to a mentor or someone else you trust if an uncomfortable situation you can’t control occurs. I’m glad Chief Delphi can be a starting point for discussion on a topic like this that needs to be addressed.

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Are you experiencing discrimination or are you feeling lonely?

Some of the other people have posted what to do if you are experiencing discrimination.

If you are feeling lonely, then persist and be part of the culture change. Seek out other female students and mentors on your team and others. The team I mentored last year was at an all girl school. They got in touch with a local group of female engineers. You are currently a minority in FRC. There are even smaller minorities in FRC. If your team has an accepting culture, there are no more minorities, just team members.

My younger son’s team had an openly gay team member and a team member with fairly severe physical handicaps who were always treated the same as other team members.

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I would add that if it ~feels like~ discrimination you ought to talk about it with a trusted and knowledgeable person.

Discrimination is often unintentional and writing off potentially discriminatory actions (even if they are unintentional) continues to silence women.

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My team has had a number of very capable female students and mentors, many taking leadership and drive team roles. We host a girls generation competition in the off season and we do our best to operate things meritocratically. I can’t speak to your personal experiences, but from my own perspective I would say the FIRST community is one of the most open and accepting that I know of. I think it’ll continue to be a male dominated one for the foreseeable future, but I know in general, it will always be welcoming to anyone interested in learning about, participating in, contributing to, and spreading the mission of FIRST.

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Disclosure: am man

This is the state of affairs, though. You haven’t made it clear exactly what you mean by ‘living in the 80s’, but engineering writ large is, well… a male-dominated field. If you want to change that you’re going to have to be able to work within a male-dominated field until it ceases to be so. If you give us some specific examples we might be able to help work through it.

We’re all still trying to figure out this whole desegregated workplace thing. We’re still trying to figure out all of the rules. I don’t think anyone quite has them figured out. The rules need to work for everyone playing the game - minorities and majorities.

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Be careful not to oversimplify the systematic sexism that continues to make Engineering a male-dominated field. Yes, non-males need to exist in a field to de-male it, however often times non-males cannot get through the gates.

We need men who are already in Engineering fields, especially those in positions of power, to advocate for women, and minorities and equity at large.

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It’s not a fun situation. My team is wonderful, but there are still moments when I exchange glances with the other girls on the team. The bigger gap, for me, is at competition— I understudied our drive coach last year, and with the exception of the all-girls’ teams and one or two (if that many) others we were working with, all drive coaches were guys. We also play the “is this an all-guys school, or just an all-guys team?” game. So, basically— yes, it’s an issue, but we’re definitely making progress and I really hope your team begins to value you and all other girls on your team!

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This is just so… horrible. Desegregated work place? Really? This isn’t the 1950’s anymore. Heck, people born back then are retiring these days.

I’ve worked with a wide variety of people. The only “rule” anyone needs to know is respect. That’s it. It’s that simple. When people lack respect for others based on differences (gender, race, religion, etc), you wind up with problems, plain and simple.

I’m a guy. I mentor and all-girls team, and have seen this stuff first hand. I’ve seen male mentors from other teams ask my students where the oven was in our pit. I’ve seen male drive coaches actively ignore, talk over, and belittle my students. I’ve seen other teams, yes, whole teams, engage in systematic harassment of my team at competition. I’ve seen students from other teams take tools out of my students hands in order to “help” fix our robot. And all of that pales next to the number of times I’ve heard other teams speculate about who “really built our robot”.

This all stems from a lack of respect. A lack of respect for others abilities. A lack of respect for their feelings. A lack of respect for them as a person. And the worst part is that students are learning it from their mentors. Mentors who don’t stand up for equality and respect. Mentors who, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not, treat girls different from boys within their own team. Mentors who stand by and see it happen, yet do nothing.

Sadly, I don’t know how to fix that problem FIRST-wide. But we all have the ability to tackle it within our own teams. Start a conversation. Bring the issue to the forefront and make everyone aware of it. Call out when you see it happening. Create core values and a team culture that won’t stand for it, and work to ensure that the next generation of students coming through your team knows how important it is. and when you encounter resistance or difficulty, ask for help. My team is always willing to help - it’s right there in our core values and mission.

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Often people don’t recognize discrimination, at least not on a level that they can say “hey, that particular thing made me feel not welcome. Let’s change that.” I think more often it’s a feeling, but you might not always be able to pin point a particular action.

I think about this a lot. I constantly look around the build room and think ‘why don’t we have more girls in here?’ But sometimes I realize it’s BECAUSE we don’t have more girls in here. Simply having less girls is sometimes enough to make girls not want to be there. (And I would think the same for most minorities) It seems to be almost on a basic level. Like you don’t have any support. Even though you know logically in your mind that having other girls there doesn’t actually mean they would automatically support you.

There’s lots of advice (and laws) about what to do about true discrimination, but changing actual culture is a lot harder and nuanced. I mean no one is being discriminated against. Any girl that wants to build on our team (and we’ve had many, even captains) is welcomed and encouraged. And I always try to keep the conversation up to be sure we can address any issues that do come up. However it can still be difficult to encourage them to do so.

I think female engineers as mentors are ideal if possible, but I think you’ll find there’s not all that many of them to go around either. Females as non technical mentors are important too. So students have someone to go to to advocate for them if needed. And the truth is I’m sure it’s not just one answer to this. I’m sure there’s no simple formula to make this happen, like ‘just do A,B, and C and you’ll get the result you want.’

One thing I do know is that minorities need champions to help. People in power that will advocate for their cause. FIRST is pretty explicit that they expect that from their teams. It doesn’t mean it’s actually happening on every team, but you will find that most of the FIRST community will do whatever they can to champion for you. (Sometimes even against your own team if needed be)

I wish I could give you better advice, or any advice really I dont think I actually gave you any. But like you, we’re still struggling to figure it out too. Just know that even though we may be few, simply by being present and persevering we may encourage many others. And then we will be more.

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I’m so confused by this post. It seems like you mean well, but the message being sent here is incredibly wrong.

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As a cis- straight white male all I know I can do is pay attention to folks not like me and what they experience, and try to do what I can to make the part of their lives that I have influence in (robotics and teaching, mostly) a more inclusive and less nasty place. I try really hard to make our team culture one where the kinds of old-boys-club junk doesn’t happen. I’m glad when there’s evidence that other teams are trying to do the same, and I’m sad or angry at evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry that OP has had to deal with this bs, I hope it will get better.

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I think the issue is on many teams , only so many can work (day to day) on the robot that is usually a small subset that likes that aspect . Only so many can drive it. That is what most students think about when they feel left out. This is not just a female thing its an everyone thing. There are those that build the robot and those that drive the robot. There are many students of both sexes that don’t drive or build. This can feel like you are not included.

Of course there is a lot more than Drive/Build. Not everyone can play Quarterback, so find your own niche and excel. You make your own way and there is lots to do now. You earn respect by doing. Show them what you can do and instead of looks to each other, figure out what you all want to do next.

When you start working you get it. The day is more rewarding if you do something. If you don’t it drags on and on.

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What particularly in the OP leads you to conclude that this, of all things, is “the issue?”

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