How I’m treated as a female in FRC!

If you think that there isn’t a difference between the way females are treated compared to males, then you’re part of the problem. From many incidents that have been brought up about how females are treated, the biggest issue is that they blow it off and don’t want to deal with the real problem. So I’ll explain the problems I have had.

  1. Why would we listen to a girl!
    Being on a mostly male dominated team is tough. The most difficult thing is when a girl tries to become part of the build. No matter how hard I tried, the guys wouldn’t listen to my ideas. Towards the end of the season they started to listen to me more and more and I heard a lot of “you were right”. Of course I wasn’t always right and I did hear “it doesn’t work” but it was better then getting my ideas pushed aside because I was a female. However only a select few listened.
    Even with all the things that have happened involving girls not being listened to and how it has been brought to the leaders attention, they seem to not care.
  2. Am I that useless?
    During the season there were many times where if I was doing something that a guy wasn’t doing then it was “unfair”, as if a female is doing it then a male has to also.
    At one specific outreach event, while I was doing something, one of the mentors compared me to animal saying that if a girl is allowed then the crazy “animals” can too. As much as I don’t want these things to hurt and how they might not mean to do any harm, it is sad to see that this is what the worlds “jokes” have come to.
  3. Girls don’t get the credit
    This year there was a lot of arguing about how to go about approaching the game. I assumed many teams had this issue because of how many ways you could approach it. In the end, designs were chosen. I had been apart of one of the major designs yet I didn’t get any credit, instead someone else did. The only thing I got credit for was basically that “I was a girl on the team”, woohoo. I know I’m a girl and I know that I’m on the team. To most people this wouldn’t mean anything but after your team reaches high achievements I believe that one of the members shouldn’t spend that night balling because of how they have been treated.
    The only reason I want to say all these things is because people and judges ask me “how do you think we get more females involved in first?”. I absolutely love first and the community but these things are starting to change my mind. At this point I’m questioning if it is worth all the emotional stress. I don’t even have the courage to tell some girls that joining the team will be amazing. I don’t want any other girl to go through this, to be treated this way, it’s just not okay. How do I deal with this?
85 Likes

I’ve deleted one antagonistic post and the subsequent replies so the discussion here can be focused on the very important concerns being addressed by the OP. Let’s try and be good listeners and helpful here.

86 Likes

I am a guy so I risk not giving a complete picture of what happens on our team from a girl’s perspective. I recognize that I probably do not have a completely accurate view of the situation but I will attempt to provide some insights from my experience.

I am deeply sorry that you’ve experienced this, and even more sorry that these sorts of attitudes still persist to this day. Thank you for bringing this up; we can all do a better job at fighting these sorts of tendencies and bringing attention to the underlying issues.

This breaks my heart to read, and it’s awful that you feel guilty. Amongst all of the other transgressions in your post this was the worst one for me personally. This was TOTALLY out of line and I am concerned for the students that they “mentor”. It is not your fault that you don’t appreciate this “joke” because it is a horrific one.

I would tentatively like to say that our team has done a pretty good job at treating all of our members as equals. In my opinion, one of the largest contributors to this culture over the past few years has been having a truly inspiring female head coach who serves as a role model to everyone, girls and boys alike. This on top of having a strong core of girls who have worked hard to learn as much as possible to be role models to underclassmen/prospective female team members has been awesome. A significant portion of our leadership positions last year were held by girls – off the top of my head, 5 out of 12 were girls. Next year 2 out of our 3 captains will be girls. And again, this is beyond a numbers thing. It allows other girls to see that their contributions are valued, and that they too can become rockstar members of the team given some time and effort invested.

My team isn’t yet at 50% girls, but I do think that the girls on our team all contribute a significant amount. Probably the average female contribution exceeds the average male contribution, both in technical and non-technical sides of the team. I personally believe the main driver of this culture is having strong female role models at all levels of the team.

Now my big concern with what I’ve read in the original post is that this structure/culture is missing. It is particularly concerning to me that even the adults in the team are unwilling to value the ideas, opinions, and contributions of the girls on your team. I’ll try to provide some advice for this but perhaps some women will be able to help out more than I can. Earlier in my life I experienced a lot of discrimination/bullying due to my skin color; while it isn’t quite the same, it is the closest thing I have to your situation. At that time, I found that the best ways to get people to change their views were:

  • Call people out for their BS. For example, if someone makes another insensitive “joke,” fire back and say that it was out of line. If someone tries to take credit for something you’ve done, remind them that you created it. Sometimes, people just don’t realize the impact of the words they say. Other times, they’re doing it deliberately and any sort of punching back might catch them off guard at the very least. I realize this is easier said then done, which leads me into my second advice.
  • Find allies. Either people who are experiencing the same things you are, or others who are sympathetic to your situation. Bonus points if they’re adults, but other students will also work. They can be team members, but also teachers, school administrators, parents, friends, or anyone else you trust. Use your power in numbers to make it easier to have your voices heard.

That’s all I have for now; I trust that others will be able to chime in with more and better advice. I am so sorry that this is what your FIRST experience is like, and I hope that you, and the greater FIRST community, can help change the culture so that these sorts of things never happen again.

22 Likes

My advice to you would be to go talk to a lead mentor about this and explain to them how you feel. I can’t comment on your team but in the team that I helped our lead mentor was amazing and she tried to get everyone’s inputs regardless of gender. As a mentor for the programming team I also tried to make sure that everyone could work on the programs together and everyone had equal opportunity. As a volunteer let me tell you if you go to a FIRST event you will be treated equally at all times. It doesn’t matter what position you are during an event. But to answer your particular question is talk to mentors and if they don’t listen then I would recommend leaving the team atmosphere and joining the volunteer and the FIRST community because even as a volunteer you get to make connections and learn at the same time.

7 Likes

I have to say I’m triggered that it took your teammates so long to appreciate your contributions. I am glad that they’ve started to recognize your achievements and possibly even respect you. Use it. The more they look at you and see value beyond gender, the more influence you’ll have. Just keep pushing yourself and proving yourself. You shouldn’t have to prove yourself because you’re a girl, but if that’s how you need to start, so be it. Keep doing what you’re doing and use your influence as it grows to lift up other girls on the team so that you don’t have to stand alone.

My team (same team Parthiv is on) does a great job respecting all ideas and contributions, regardless of gender. I hope your mentors and teammates see this thread and reconsider how they think. Because being a woman should be a sense of pride, not a point of oppression in this day and age.

Don’t the boys on your team know which chess piece is the most powerful and does the most dirty work? That’s right: the queen. And you’re a queen. I hope your team opens their eyes and cuts the sexism because you deserve better.

11 Likes

Join a different team.

If Interested, bring these issues up with the school, district. and your local FIRST Senior mentor.

15 Likes

While this isn’t always possible, there’s also volunteering :slight_smile: I’ll make a more nuance reply to the thread in a couple hours but I’m sorry you had to go through this OP. In no way should any girl on any FIRST team have to go through this and like Mika’s referenced above, if your comfortable reaching out to local FIRST leadership in your area to report incidents (the mentor one seems particularly alarming), I would hope they could be of help and a resource.

1 Like

Listen, you really just have to push yourself in if you want that spot. I’m a female on the team and yeah, at first I still didn’t get a lot of credit, even now I don’t have the full trust of the team. But who cares if the boys tell you not to. You have to speak up and push them out of the way (safely, of course). You basically have to be one of the boys. Show that you don’t mind being treated roughly and all that. Once you gain some credit there, it’s easier to get them to work with you, instead of against you. I’m not saying change who you are, but im telling you from experience, you can’t be afraid to jump in and do work and get your hands dirty.
Im not saying what they’re doing is right, but it’s pretty unlikely they’re going to change, so you need to know how to adapt to situations like that.
Feel free to PM me if you want to talk further, I probably didn’t explain myself well

9 Likes

This is incredibly heartbreaking, noone should be treated like this. I’m very sorry.

14 Likes

I’m sorry you had this experience but please stay involved. FIRST needs more gender diversity.

Reading your post reminds me of critiques by many first year members no matter the gender. Breaking through the cliques and relationships the rest of the team spent 3+ years building is tough. Sure, FIRST endeavors to be the “sport for the mind” etc but I wish the upper/lower class thing, so problematic in other sports and clubs, were not a part of FIRST. Beyond being new there is zero doubt gender bias played the greater role in your experience. My daughter, now a practicing EE, encountered this all the way through high school and college. Even today I’ll introduce her to folks and get astounded reactions to her choice of profession (especially after they hear her sing).

The behavior of your peers is unacceptable. They are wrong, not you! Talk to your teachers and school counselors. Talk to the mentors on the team. BTW, the mentor who made the “animal” comment needs to be removed from the team. Are there any female mentors? If not, try to recruit female mentors. Do not be silenced! Do not be taken for granted! Do not let others take credit for your accomplishments (within limits, there is no “I” in team). Do NOT take you peers seriously. I used to tell my daughter “why would you care so much about the opinion of a student your age? Why would you think another X year-old would know something that you do not?” You can teach your peers to treat you better and to treat new girls on the team better. Blaze a trail! Break through the ceiling! Get a little bit angry about it and turn the righteous anger into energy to change the culture of your team.

7 Likes

Your team has a culture problem.

The problem here is either that

  1. Your build group is unsupervised and you were ignored by the other male students. After reporting the issue to a mentor your group continued to be unsupervised.
  2. Your build group is supervised by a mentor and they didn’t recognize the problem as a problem.

Your team culture needs to change to allow any and all ideas/suggestions to be heard and considered.

For the first part, is the unfair part that a girl was doing something and a guy wasn’t, or was it unfair that other students were doing something and a single student wasn’t doing anything?
The part about a mentor joking is wrong and should be corrected, if it was reported and nothing done is just shows the cultural problem that exists on your team. If it wasn’t reported how is it ever going to change?

For our team, during the season, we don’t have John’s idea or Jane’s idea, rather it’s the continuous elevator or the cascade elevator. This way nobody gets singled out as taking all the credit or all the blame. We always stress that the robot is a team effort. However, we do recognize individuals for things that are done outside of our meetings. Some of these include participating in outreach activities, mentoring FTC teams or volunteering with FIRST events and doing extra work in preparation for meetings.

7 Likes

While I very much admire your gusto (ok correct term is probably moxy but I’m dating myself using that term, especially seeing as the iPhone doesn’t seem to know it :rofl:) and refusal to accept a situation where you are not treated as an equal, that’s not necessarily the nature of every female. No person should not have to alter their normal behaviour to be a part of an FRC team (exceptions for disruptive, dangerous, disrespectful behaviour) but especially not to “fit in with the boys”.

In this case the disrespectful behaviour is being committed by males on the team and it’s their behaviour and also hopefully their entire outlook that needs to change.

5 Likes

Yeah, like I said, don’t change who you are, but at the same time you can’t expect people to listen. Guys will be guys, which is most of the time stubborn. While the situation does suck, and should never happen, at some point you have to work to be seen, or listened to. It’s taken me a long time to get where i am on my team. I had to push myself in. I forced myself to where I am now, no matter how much resistance I got.

Im not saying any kind of discrimination is okay, but at the same time you can’t expect everyone to respect what should be just common curtesy (not sure if that’s the right word, but you know what I meant)

2 Likes

Disclaimer - while I feel quite experienced in mentoring young women thanks to leading an all girls team (5686), I do not know exactly how you are feeling.

What I will say is that I 100% agree with the above. Call people out on their garbage that brings you down, especially if mentors are not calling it out for you, or are the cause of it. While I would love everyone to come to the realization that what they are saying is stupid on their own, it isn’t possible.

I understand what you’re trying to say here, but rather than a girl having to “fit in” the team needs a serious culture shift - and that comes directly from how the mentors and parents treat young women on the team.

OP - if you want to chat, feel free to PM.

6 Likes

We do not know any details about your experiences, so it’s hard to give specific suggestions to deal with certain people or situations. However, I would like to offer some general advice.

  1. Find a mentor that you can share this with. Having a mentor know how its affecting you is probably the fastest way to effect a change on your team. Mentors who are doing their job will zealously work towards having a team where everyone feels welcome and encouraged.

  2. In some situations having ideas ignored or having credit ‘misapplied’ has nothing at all to do with gender. Even as a male senior engineer this happens to me. I deal with this by keeping a detailed engineering notebook with my ideas, dates, feedback from others, and so on. Keeping a good engineering notebook will document the credit that you deserve, help you keep track of your ideas and work, and is generally a good practice to have. More usefully in FRC: divorcing individual ownership from an idea or design is important because no one develops something for the robot totally on their own.

  3. Be vocal, but constructive, in voicing your concerns. Understand that the young men and/or mentors on your team probably do not even realize what they’re doing.* Using “I” statements to share your perspective is probably the best approach. Saying something such as “I think we need to give XYZ idea more consideration” or “I believe XYZ will work well for reasons A, B, and C, what do you think?” will likely go over better than saying “You’re ignoring my idea” for example. Being constructive in these instances will keep the team dialog open, whereas being accusatory will tend to stop these conversations.

  4. You are not alone. Young women on my team (and others, I’m sure) and others struggle with the same issues that you’re bringing up, sometimes in FRC, sometimes in other facets of life.

*FRC is here to help change the culture surrounding STEM in the US and the world. Part of that culture is, unfortunately, a subconscious dismissal of females in STEM fields by a significant portion of males. It is literally ingrained in some men, culturally, and they’re not even aware of it. This is why it’s important to be vocal (so they’re aware) and constructive (so they do not feel attacked/surprised).

I think that you’re at a key juncture in your young life. You have the choice to leave something that it appears you enjoy (at least in principle) or work hard to change the culture of your team. I know that it won’t be easy, but I do hope that you will choose to try and change your team’s culture.

3 Likes

I cannot agree more!
@Phantomdevil, you are “fighting the good fight”!
@pkrishna3082 gave excellent advise.
FIRST is a family. Reaching out to the rest of us for support and help is a step in the right direction!

1 Like

Like Akash, I’m a male mentor for an all girls team (a different one than his!), have been for the past 13 years. Obviously, it’s not individuals like us that are the problem… but there IS a problem, and you are not alone.

Students on my team have been harassed at events in the past. We’ve had random guys show up in our pit and find “excuses” to stay there for hours on end. My students have been asked if the mentors built the robot for them. Their thoughts have been ignored in alliance discussions before matches, and have been told to play defense when object scouting data showed we were the strongest scorer on the alliance. At one of our regionals this year one of our alliance members attempted to convince us to play defense, telling us we were great at playing defense… despite the fact that we hadn’t actually played defense all season, and if we tried we would get penalized because our arm didn’t lock down inside our frame perimeter. 15 minutes later he realized he wasn’t going to get anywhere and left… only to then send over a couple of girls from his team to try to do the same (maybe thinking we would respond better to girls?). As my drive coach put it “That’s 30 minutes of my time I’ll never get back”.

We’ve seen this attitude impact girls on other teams before. Just this past weekend, I was a little shocked to see a team I had otherwise respected for their efforts in combating certain aspects of anti-female culture not “walking the walk” in their pit. They had a row of stools along one side of their pit where several girls were sitting and watching as a group of boys worked on their robot. No effort was made to get them involved, at all. Granted, I don’t know if this was an isolated incident caused by circumstances (the nature of the issue didn’t pull in those individuals expertise, for example) or indicative of how their team was run.

We run a luncheon at the Minneapolis Regionals called “SWEet Eats”, designed to get females from all teams together with SWE students from the university and professionals to build a network of support. Some of the comments we’ve gotten related to this event have been downright disgusting. We’ve asked lead mentors why they didn’t sign up the females on their team and been told “I didn’t reply to it because I’m not a female”. After the event, we’ve brought leftover cookies to our pit to share with anyone and had male mentors ask “Where’s the oven?” I mean, really? Obviously store bought cookies (still in the box!), and instead of taking one and saying thank you, you ask that?

This year, my team took an extra step to help avoid some of this poor behavior. We purchased two-color wristbands for everyone on the team. If someone is feeling uncomfortable in a situation, they can flip the wristband and someone else on the team will extract them from it. I wish we didn’t need to do something like this, and it’s not something males on a team would really understand, but we did find it necessary and it was used during competition.

The good news among all of this… Not every team is bad. Many teams out there support their female members, give them respect, and respect all the members on other teams. It’s a culture that has to be created and enforced from the top, starting with the mentors. I would encourage you to talk with your mentors, explain the frustrations and problems you see, and try to work with them on creating a more accepting and respectful culture within your team. If that doesn’t work, I would try to find another team. If the people in charge won’t listen to you and support a toxic culture, it’s not on your shoulders to bear it in the hopes of someday changing it for others - it would be much more healthy for you to step out, find someplace where you can fit in and be supported, and pursue your path there.

35 Likes

I absolutely love this, even outside of gender based interactions this would be extremely useful for students to ask for help in uncomfortable situations.

22 Likes

To start, know that you are not alone, and the sad reality is that I, and most females I know in FRC, can tell you numerous stories that are way too similar to what you experienced.

The best advice I can give you is to stay strong and try and help change the culture of your team so that you have a more enjoyable experience, and also to pave the way for future members of your team.

If you have a mentor that you are comfortable talking to, have a conversation with them about how you are being treated. Depending on how involved they are at meetings, they may not even be aware of what is even going on.

As was mentioned above, and if you feel comfortable doing so, call people out if they are speaking out of line. People don’t always think through what they are saying or how it could affect others, so as a team it really is good to try and keep each other in check.

If you even need someone to talk to about what you are going through, feel free to PM me. I know it’s not a fun situation and I am so sorry you are having to go through it.

7 Likes

I first thought that it is a good idea for her to leave the team…goodbye to a terrible team/mentor.
If @Phantomdevil is strong enough (and has allies on her side), then she should stay and change this culture.
I will admit that it is easy for us to sit on the sidelines and give her advise on how to fight against this misogynistic climate in her team. However, she is the one who must listen to degrading comments on a daily basis.
Strong allies will help her champion this cause. She needs someone who will stand beside her as she confronts those who belittles her contributions to the team. I truly hope that someone will step forward!

…one of the mentors compared me to animal saying that if a girl is allowed then the crazy “animals” can too.

If this is his worldview, then he should not have a place in FIRST or around young ladies entering STEM!

3 Likes