Engineering at Ole Miss: What it’s like to be a woman

By Karoline Kouk

Hayley Hatcher, a junior general engineering major at the University of Mississippi, studies for an upcoming fluid mechanics exam. She prepares for future tests and assignments in this room five times a week. Photo by Karoline Kouk.

Young men quickly walked into the classroom as Hayley Hatcher, a junior general engineering major, snatched a seat to study for her upcoming exam. In her physics class, she is one of 15 women in a class of 50 students. According to the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning, more than 76% of the Ole Miss engineering degree graduates in 2015 were male.

Hatcher has noticed this discrepancy face to face in the STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) building. She studies and attends classes in this building five days a week and expresses her concerns on what it’s like to be a minority in the school of engineering.

Located on the University of Mississippi’s campus, Anderson Hall is one of the buildings that are home to many engineering students. Hatcher studies and attends lectures here almost everyday. Photo by Karoline Kouk.

“I am surrounded by men every day and I have had only two female teachers,” said Hatcher. “For the most part, my male professors are great, but sometimes you do notice a line between men and women.”

She is passionate about engineering and her professors recognize her enthusiasm and work ethic.

John O’Haver, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Mississippi, taught Hatcher in his processes principles class and noticed her determination.

“Hayley Hatcher is incredibly motivated, hard-working, personable, and works well with her peers,” said O’Haver. “Chemical engineering has the highest female participation rate in engineering, about 40 to 45 percent are female.”

Two senior male engineering students study in Anderson Hall eagerly awaiting graduation. By Karoline Kouk.

When Hatcher is not studying in the STEM building, she is most likely found inside her sorority house, Kappa Alpha Theta. She also has friends that are going through the same experience.

Megan Gusman, a sophomore chemical engineering major, met Hatcher through the school of engineering, but they became close through their sorority involvement.

“Hayley is always studying. When I walk into our sorority house, four out of five times, she’s in the dining room working through a textbook,” said Gusman. “That’s the main thing I would say she’s involved with in Kappa Alpha Theta — she is tutoring other girls.”

Hayley Hatcher meets with a study group weekly and uses this dry erase board to document their studies. Photo by Karoline Kouk.

Gusman, like Hatcher, understands what it feels like to be a woman in STEM, and she also believes that women should pursue their dreams despite difficult circumstances. “Pursuing a career in a technical field is still so commonly thought of as a man’s job. Young women are extremely intimidated by that,” Gusman said. “That’s not going to stop me from doing something I’m passionate about, no matter how hard or frustrating it is.”

Although being a woman in the school of engineering is unique, Hatcher continues to look forward to her future career and believes that being a woman doesn’t have to be a disadvantage.

Being a woman, Hatcher often feels alone in the school of engineering. She looks forward to graduation and finding a career in engineering. Photo by Karoline Kouk.

“Feminism is a big thing right now and I think I can use that to my advantage when I start to look for a job,” Hatcher said. “I’m really excited for my career to start because many companies are looking to hire more women in STEM.”

Even though her experiences in the school of engineering are a little different, Hatcher feels motivated to be the best student that she can be. She is expecting to graduate in May 2018 and looks forward to her future in engineering.

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