In 1984 two male classmates and I were invited to dinner in Pasadena, California, to talk with the producers and director of a movie that was going to be set in a fictional version of our school, the California Institute of Technology. David Marvit, a senior at the time who consulted on the film, had asked for a girl for them to talk to, so there I was—wearing a sweater I’d knitted overnight the night before, my bangs cut straight across my forehead, and speaking in a voice that people still mistake for a child’s. They asked us about how things worked, what we did for fun, what our schedules were like. Eventually the conversation turned toward what it was like to be a female student in a school with a 7–1 ratio of men to women.
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It was cool they filmed the movie my senior year. There was a party and some of the cast came. Everybody Rules the World has been the theme song of my Caltech experience along with Ride of the Valkyries of course.
And yes it was 7 men to one woman undergrad. Male students would gather around females sitting in the lectures. I spoke to a couple of women fellow EEs who said the attention made them uncomfortable. I don’t recall any academic differences – very much an atmosphere of tough academics and all working to be successful, but that was at the junior/senior level. I was told that there were sophomore students who argued with profs if they were not given an A+ and would get frantic if they couldn’t maintain a 4.3 GPA. But some profs decided not to award A+ grades.