Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How Women Should Thrive in a Male-Dominated Field

When I was studying engineering in college, men disproportionately outnumber women in class. I remember we were only five women in a class of 40. Pool of students turned much smaller once you get to major courses until you realized you are the only female making you feel like the odd one out. Breaking into a male-dominated field is not impossible but staying in it is the real challenge. I took Computer Engineering because of my passion for technological advancement and innovation. When you love what you do, it becomes easy. But how can women compete in a man's field?

The answer is, you don't. There's no need to constantly prove that women can do as much as men. If you want to get ahead, make sure you stand out. You don't have to put an act such as being 'one of the guys' to blend in better. Embrace what sets you apart by focusing on a field where you can develop skills and have a better chance of gaining recognition. After taking my Software class, I became interested in Web Development. I knew that's where I need to be. I continuously seek out opportunities to learn more about it and volunteered to do the website in group projects.

Lack of self-confidence is one known fact to affect women despite of having the same abilities as men. When confidence falls short, it can impact focus and productivity. Finding validation for a woman's involvement in engineering projects can be extremely difficult, I felt it at times. Remember, do not let this discomfort stand in your way. Find a mentor or role model you can look up to. You may need the guidance and mentorship of a professor or other female batchmates. Follow up with them and take their advice, which can help advance in your career.

Don't be a female engineer, be an engineer. The more we do gender specific labels, the more we succumb to difficult hurdles because we are women. Challenges will never stop after college. You will still have to break through that glass wall of an all male workplace environment. I've learned to become matured and have a positive attitude in my field over the years. Experience will give you a bit of backbone and a thick skin, trust me.

My advice for young women who want to be an engineer: Do it. Don't let statistics decide your career path. Women can be technical and thrive in a man's world. You just have to believe in yourself and start taking that confident stride.


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