Meet Sadie Allen, a BU Computer Engineer

There’s a lot to be amazed about when it comes to Sadie Allen: She’s incredibly beautiful, fun to be around, and has a pristine singing voice (which I get to hear at our A Capella rehearsals). She’s in the College of Engineering studying Computer Engineering, which is even more impressive when you consider the fact that only around 11% of engineers are women. I had to the chance to sit down with her and talk about her experience as a female engineering student and her stance on women in STEM fields.

Credit: Sadie Allen

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

“I just knew that in school that I had always really enjoyed math and science courses. When I was like looking at possible future careers, engineering was something that I saw that I could continue doing for a long time and I thought it was just great!”

How have different people reacted to you being a woman in STEM?

“My family’s very supportive. When you meet other people, especially older men in the stem profession, and they ask, “Oh, what do you do?”, and I say “I’m a computer engineer,” they’re like “Oh, wow good for you! There aren’t many women in this field.”  You’re treated as a commodity, like “Oh, so unique!” "

Why are there so few women pursuing an education in STEM as opposed to men?

“Women are told they can’t a lot. The issue is of people saying “Oh, so unique!” is the problem. It’s seen as special and different if women do pursue it. If a man told you he was a computer engineer you’d be like, “Oh.” But if a woman said that you’d be like “Oh!” That reaction is part of the reason why there aren’t as many women because it’s not seen as a typically womanly task. I think a lot of it is residual from the time when women didn’t work at all. STEM fields are the last few areas that women are getting into because they’re so male-dominated. It’s hard for women to break in because people don’t consider them as good at it when they are just as capable.”

Credit: Sadie Allen

Does being in engineering change the way people treat/perceive you as a female in what way?

“I feel like people respect you more once they know you’re a woman. I don’t think I’m treated super differently, but I think boys or men would respect women more if they were engineers because they would see them a little bit more as an equal. Obviously, non-sexist men wouldn’t, but there are men out there that treat you better because you’re an engineer.”

How do people treat female engineers differently than male engineers?

“I was in a class last year where I was the only girl in a class of 25, and I think my professor definitely was a little bit sexist towards me and treated me differently. I think he gave me a lower grade because I was a woman and made some comments and it was just very obviously because I was the only girl that I was treated differently. BU overall does a very good job though – four out of five of my engineering professors this year are women. Go, women! Breakin’ in!”

What are some things that discourage girls from being in STEM in the first place?

“They’re not expected to and I think they’re told they can’t a lot more than boys. Honestly, middle school and high school are such an important time because that’s when you figure out what you like. And if I didn’t have the math teacher I’d had in middle school, I would not be in STEM. You need to have a person to encourage you and tell you that you can do it. And if a girl doesn’t have that, then she may not go in. And I'm grateful that I did have that. I don’t know, what are typical “girl” jobs?  That’s what you see reflected in the world that’s what you think you should be. Men are in these more high-power professions and because that’s how things are now that’s how they continue to be. Young people see the world around them and think that’s how it should be.”

Will there come a day when female engineers are treated as the equals of men?

“I think we’re moving in a positive direction, but it will just take time. You know who you should talk to? (Sadie mentions a recent alumnus of our A Capella group, Cordially Yours, who is also a female engineer) She quit her first job at an engineering firm because she was treated differently than male engineers. She’d be good to talk to as well. We just have to keep educating people and getting them to realize that just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone else.”

What would you say to a girl who wants to go into the same education as you?

“Do it! It’s super fun. If you really love it, that’s what you should be doing. Don’t let off-hand comments that people make discourage you, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Credit: Statepress

Anything else?

"Women should be in STEM. Simple as that. STEM needs more perspective. You need a diversity of opinion and background in any field in order to be as successful as possible. You can’t have one demographic making all the decisions. That doesn’t work." 

Remember to follow your dreams ladies. Sadie's journey and perspective on women in engineering is so inspiring and she is truly a remarkable individual! 


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