For me, gender serves as one of the most fundamental influences upon my social identity. Growing up in a Girls’ School, I never felt that my gender “mattered”. I did not feel like my gender would constrict me from pursuing any particular industry or field, nor would it impact how I speak, act, or dress.

However, when I moved to Duke, I sensed the pervasive influences of gender. I noticed that there is a set of implicit behavioural codes and expectations on women. I noticed that women tend to speak quieter than men in classrooms, meetings, and conversations, whereas men in general seemed to be more confident, assured, and loud. Even though I was not intentionally changing myself, I evolved to fit the gender stereotype — such as precipitating my questions with a disclaimer “this may be a dumb question but…”. I felt more constricted by the social stereotype of girls, sometimes fearing that “I am not good at this” because women are not traditionally dominant in the selected industries.

I also felt that my age is a shaping determinant on my social identity. At Duke, we are constantly reminded of our class years, beginning our self-introduction as “I am a freshman/sophomore/junior/senior”. When entering my junior year, I felt a change in my attitude to class selection: instead of trying to find “easy A” classes, I prioritized “how much I can learn”.