Women Engineers: Be Your Own Feminine

We have to set aside the pressure that we might feel to look and act a certain way so as to not upset the strong preconceived notions that surround us regarding women engineers.

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photograph of a strong, stylish woman flexing her muscles

“Women Engineers: Be Your Own Feminine” was written by Mary Foss.


If there was a line-up of 50 women would you be able to pick out the engineer? Hopefully your first thought was ‘no’, but many of us have a picture of what an engineer looks like. Does that picture look like you?  Are you trying to look like that picture? Where did this picture even come from? When you get home from work, do you rush to change out of your ‘engineering uniform’ or are you brave enough to be your own feminine?

Women engineers are critical to the work place for so many reasons. As women, we add diversity into the work force because we really do have a unique way that we solve problems. However, this only works if we able to be authentic and true to the person that we are. We have to set aside the pressure that we might feel to look and act a certain way so as to not upset the strong preconceived notions that surround us regarding women engineers. Somehow, we have to allow ourselves to express our own unique feminine qualities and thereby start changing and shifting the stereotypes of what an engineer looks like. An engineer looks like everyone. It’s up to us and it starts with us to show that to the world.

“We have to set aside the pressure that we might feel to look and act a certain way so as to not upset the strong preconceived notions that surround us regarding women engineers.”

To be feminine is completely subjective. To my brilliant colleague Lindsay this meant coordinating designer eye glasses with her heels. To others this might mean a comfortable pair of boots that are equally well suited for hiking as the office. Maybe you wear makeup. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you have luxurious hair that bounces, maybe you have yours pulled back. Either way, it doesn’t matter so long as you are comfortable. I guarantee there are many people that are qualified to DO your job but you are the only one that can do it your way. In the end, it’s not so much about what you do but instead, HOW you do it. If you are true to yourself and your own values this can guide the way you interact with the work force around you. You can redefine what it is to be a leader and what it is to be an engineer. You can and do have the power to shift the work place culture in which you live. You just have to be brave enough to be you, and you are the only one that can do it.

“You can and do have the power to shift the work place culture in which you live. You just have to be brave enough to be you, and you are the only one that can do it.”

The reality that everyone faces is that we all wear a multitude of different hats and sometimes that requires an outfit change, and let’s face it, sometimes our outfits seem to function more like armor.  At the end of the day, the person inside should remain authentically you. If you can imagine a future where you can spend each day feeling authentic and speaking and acting authentic, then you can make the first step. Once you do, you will be surprised at what will open up for you. You can develop your own leadership style and you can redefine the way things are done. You can bust through barriers that have been up for a hundred years. After all, you are a problem solver.

“The reality that everyone faces is that we all wear a multitude of different hats and sometimes that requires an outfit change, and let’s face it, sometimes our outfits seem to function more like armor. At the end of the day, the person inside should remain authentically you.”

And if you are not sure who your authentic self really is, pack your bags and commit to getting to know who you are. This might involve throwing out a boatload of old beliefs that you hold, but I guarantee it will make for lighter travel as you go. And when you do meet the real you, I know you will light up the whole room!

 

About the author:

Mary Foss is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology at Weber State University. She received a BSE in Bioengineering from Arizona State University and MSE from Stevens Institute of Technology in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Engineering. She has held positions as Design Engineer for a large Aerospace company, Facilities Engineering manager responsible for large plant expansions projects and Technical Services Engineering Manager where she managed the Validation program and Metrology lab for a Utah based pharmaceutical company.


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