I lined up nervously outside of my first engineering lecture in 2010, having no idea what to expect.
I didn’t know any engineers personally, let alone any women who had entered into this profession to ask for advice. Being an engineer has definitely not been all smooth sailing, but it has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done.
So here is some advice for other young women looking to study or start their career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths, commonly referred to as STEM industries, to hopefully make your transition a little easier.
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1. Expect to be challenged.
While the industry is changing day by day for the better, I can guarantee that there will still be days that are challenging as a female in any STEM profession.
I sincerely hope that you don’t experience misogynism, chauvinism and narcissism while studying or during your career, but I bet my bottom dollar that you will. Some of this bias is subconscious, but it might surprise you just how much conscious bias still exists.
Things will be said, actions will be downright unfair, and you may find yourself having a solid cry in a toilet cubicle (more often than you would like to admit)… but just know that you are not alone.
By showing up as your amazing and unique self every day, you are helping to break these habits for the benefit of future generations of women and to improve diversity in general. Through showing up as your best self every day you are also supporting those people who are genuinely striving to create a more diverse and inclusive industry for ourselves and future generations.
The pure visibility of women and diversity in STEM is enough to kick-start a change; remember this on hard days.
2. Find your group and love them hard.
Let’s be honest, stereotypical engineers aren’t renowned for their social skills, but forming an amazing group of friends whilst at university was one of the best things that I ever did.
These people will become your rocks during university, your champions as graduates, and your advocates in your later career. Having a group that understand the STEM environment as a sounding board for when things get tough, when you are exhausted, when assignments are due at midnight and you haven’t started (we have all been there), will honestly become your lifeline.