Females flying solo: A guide to empowerment


“66% of fourth grade girls say they like science and math. But only 18% of all college engineering majors are female.”

Verizon’s 2014 commercial raises some very good points. Women in America are victims of extreme gender stereotyping and it largely affects the choices we make later in life – including whether or not to travel.

Culturally, women are treated as precious snowflakes; sweet, delicate, and disastrously ill equipped to contend with the meatier struggles of life.

Whether a woman is walking on to a used car lot, pursuing an engineering degree, or planning a trek across southeastern Columbia, the reaction is always the same:

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

An article on Forbes.com tracked the public outcry prompted by the death of a 33-year-old woman traveling in Turkey:

  • “A single woman traveling alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish.”
  • “A woman has no business traveling alone.”
  • “No WAY I would even let my beautiful wife out the door to travel to any country alone.”

It’s a sad fact that things like this happen, but bottling women up is not the answer. Terrible things are likely to happen anywhere, even at home. According to the FBI, 80% of violent crime victims know their attackers personally.

When I was a child, one of my classmates bragged about an amazing weekend in NYC. Inspired, I went home and asked my mother if she could take me the following weekend.

She let out a small sigh and said, “Your father is busy, but maybe some other weekend.”

“But why can’t we go just the two of us?” I asked.

“It’s much too dangerous for us to travel to a big city like New York on our own,” she said.

This is the viewpoint that many of my friends and I grew up with; an opinion still institutionalized within my home community.

Every day, concerned friends furrow their brows and ask my mother how on earth she can cope with me living in rural Guatemala.

I am lucky to have so many amazing people in my life who care. But in a more perfect world, people would have confidence in my pursuits and not see every travel excursion as an opportunity for the real-life enactment of Little Red Riding Hood.

Recently, Ohio State’s Women in Engineering (WIE) has taken amazing strides in combating these restrictive stereotypes.

After hearing of the extremely low ranking Guatemala received on the United Nations Gender Inequality Index, the group is preparing to launch an annual woman-centered engineering expedition in conjunction with NGO Mayan Families.

For three months each summer, students will travel to Guatemala to utilize special engineering strategies to empower women and deliver long-term industrial solutions.

The project will give female students the opportunity to travel, experience a new culture, and contend with gender inequality issues both at home and abroad.

At just 18 years old, electrical and computer engineering major Mary Scherer is the pilot representative for the initiative, gathering all the information to approve funding for the trip while pioneering the educational practices that future students will employ.

She’s optimistic that the program will not only benefit the indigenous communities, but will also stand as a champion initiative for equal rights and the empowerment of women everywhere:

“Experiencing volcanic hikes, flooding rains, and an earthquake after only three weeks in Guatemala, I have realized that the world is constantly changing. But while teaching here in Panajachel, I have also realized that as a woman in engineering, I too am changing the world.”

Inspiration attacks with Titanic force


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My favorite comedian Jack Handy once said, “I hope some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays it’s eggs in my brain, because later you might think you’re having a good idea but it’s just eggs hatching.

Good for you, Jack, for figuring out how to put what that feels like into words.

Have you ever walked into an art gallery or seen a really good film and thought “Why didn’t I think of that first?”

It’s the schizophrenic rush of inspiration, the feeling that the demonic heat of your own creative potential might actually set you on fire.

And then you see the gelato shop across the road and the idea that was so fresh and clear in your mind crawls back to the larval sack of ambivalence from whence it came.

For me, this moment came yesterday after watching Titanic for the 10,000 time.

Although many fans ‘abandoned ship’ in an effort to distance themselves from the poisonous haze of romantic stereotypes and pre-teen obsession, my loyalty has never wavered.

Before Titanic, nobody had the tools to communicate the shock, terror, and devastation of this infamous night. By definition, history is removed from our sense of reality and is therefore inaccessible.

Since April 14th 1912, people have relied on written accounts and imagination to connect with the horror of this legendary disaster.

Then came James Cameron’s Titanic, a sensual tsunami that allows people to experience the sinking for themselves through the eyes of authentic, relatable characters.

The story is communicated with such flawless accuracy, counting a plot laced with faithful depictions of true passengers.

The stark class differences and political dissension of the era are meticulously represented in every dialogue. The boundary between present and past is shattered for 194 minutes.

All I can think is, why didn’t I do it first? Never mind that I was 10.

Keeping it real


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I was riding the bus when a boy no longer amused with his video game chucked it aside and began ferociously digging through a tote. Wailing his displeasure when all he produced was a half eaten pack of crackers and some hand wipes, his digital needs went unsatisfied.

At his age, my brothers and I were swaddled in fluff and kicked out the back door with nothing but our imaginations, five km of wilderness and whatever the cat dropped on the doorstep.

Entertainment was entirely dependent on creative cunning. We spent our days galloping through the underbrush, building bug-city mud mansions and catching salamanders.

We once amused ourselves for three days straight just digging a big hole.

At at what point along the way did we stop being comfortable inside our own heads? In the digital age, people have become too impatient to actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the solitude of an uncharted moment.

This is when true genius strikes, after all; a lesson I learned when locked in a bedroom led to 4’x4′ of tubing, a slingshot, and a hamster.

Today, immediacy rules every sphere of human interaction. We want to know it, we want to know it now, and we want to move on. The world is at our fingertips every second of every day and as a result, some of the greatest opportunities to commune with a moment pass by unappreciated.

It’s convenient to wake up and check my three emails, Facebook, SMS and Snap Chat before  getting out of bed, but sometimes I need to leave the smartphone at home and reconnect with raw reality; the kind you can see, smell, taste, touch and love.