Lessons from #Ilooklikeanengineer

By Erin Winick

I am over halfway through my 4th year as a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Florida. I have interned with a structural engineering firm, a turbine company and a tractor company. I love hands on work using lathes, mills, welding and band saws. I also love sewing, cooking, nature, and fashion. I am a female engineer and #Ilooklikeanengineer.

The #Ilooklikeanengineer campaign has sent a strong message around social media, helping show the world that engineers come in forms other than the men we saw working on the Space Shuttle program in the 1960s. This campaign has given me an important realization beyond its primary message. Yes, society still imagines engineers as being nerdy, socially inept and attired in collared dress shirts. However, there are additional detrimental effects of this other than discrimination against minorities. Society feels like female and other minority group engineers are nowhere to be found, because we don’t see them fitting into this mold.

I have been to work parties with my boyfriend where he asked me, “So who here are your co-workers?” I was able to respond, “All of the men.” The only women at the party where the spouses of my fellow co-workers. Because of this, I am sometimes assumed to be the guest at the work party, not the engineer.

On top of this, when I went to Orlando Maker Faire with my Communications and Creative Writing double major boyfriend, we walked up to a 3D printing booth and began talking to the person behind it. However, he just kept talking to my boyfriend and ignored me. My boyfriend had to tell the man at the booth, “I have no idea what you are talking about. You should talk to her.”

When you look down the street and see women wearing professional dresses and heels, you don’t immediately think, “Wow, that is a group of female engineers.” But when you see a group of older white men in thick rimmed glasses, you would not be surprised to hear they were engineers. Parents don’t see role models or examples for our young girls, because of our societal preconditioning to what those in STEM fields should look like. This makes it much harder for parents to give young girls someone to talk to about a future in STEM.

So let’s show all of the young kids in the world what this generation of engineers looks like. We are smart, diverse in race, gender, socio economic origin and sexual orientation. We are energetic, ready to change the world, and even fashionable. By wearing Sci Chic clothes you are showing young kids caring about science is cool, and that lots of people love science! You are helping show that people who like science are not a small minority and that role models are out there.

Women engineers are a growing force, but don’t be looking for any stereotypical signs to find us. As the campaign shows, there is no one look for an engineer any more. We are diverse in the sense of our looks, race, sexual orientation, personalities, hobbies, and histories. Engineers are breaking out of the box. The best way you can help increase acceptance, is when you ask us what our career is, do not act surprised and ask us if we are kidding when we tell you “engineer”. Ask us about our work and how we are striving to change in the world.

Find more about Erin at Scichic.com

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