By Katherine Quigg
"You seem like an [insert occupation here]" or "Really, you're an [insert occupation here]??"
These phrases have always confused me. It's the old riddle of what came first, the chicken or the egg? Do our occupations define our personalities, or do we pick our occupations based on pre-existing personality traits?
My opinion has always been that my personality, what I enjoy doing, and my occupation need not be related at all. And certainly does not need to conform to the stereotypes that exist in the world.
I grew up in a small town, and then went to a small all Engineering college. When I graduated and left for the "real world," I suddenly ran into a world that did not "expect" someone like me to be an engineer. Was it that I was female? Come on people, this is the 21st century! Was it that I had an interest in fashion and style, not the "tom boy" that they expected? I had just left a university of hundreds of women exactly like me!
Even though it's the 21st century, it is still not an easy field for women. I will never forget a former boss telling me that gaining the respect of my peers "wouldn't be hard if I were male." Yet, I never judged him too harshly for voicing what I already knew to be true. Way before this conversation, I started leaving the "girly" part of my personality at home, and being the tough tom boy that everyone expected at work.
And though it worked to gain respect, it didn't make me happy pretending to be a different person than I was. I wondered how many other women have had the same experience - across not just engineering, but all other career paths.
If all of the people in a field have the same personality, are they all having the same thoughts? Does real innovation comes when we have diversity - different personalities, different backgrounds, different genders, different races, and different religions all working towards the same goal? I think so.
That is why I work through Engineering In Style to change the stereotype of what we see in STEM. To encourage women to be THEMSELVES at work, because whatever your personality and interests are does not need to conform to the stereotypes that society has. To encourage young women to go into STEM fields and take advantage of the huge job opportunities that exist now and in the future. And to honor the creative part of my personality, because I never want to pretend to be someone I'm not again.
Katherine Quigg is the creator and founder of Engineering In Style, a fashion blog dedicated to de-bunking STEM stereotypes and providing an insider glimpse at seasonal beauty, wardrobe, and DIY trends. Photography by Ali Stone.