Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to be interviewed for SheFactor’s podcast! SheFactor is a relatively new company focused on empowering women, especially those in their 20s, to live their best life and find their purpose. Coming out of college and entering the real world is DAUNTING, but SheFactor is making that transition a lot easier by providing resources and catering content toward young women on a path toward a more fulfilling and successful life.

On my episode of their podcast, I share my experiences as a female in engineering, how I got where I am today, and some of the struggles I faced growing up trying to fit in as a smart female with interests in two radically different, yet both male-dominated fields: engineering and trumpet. You can give it a listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcast streaming method. But I wanted to dive more into what was briefly touched on toward the end of the podcast – how to OWN and MAINTAIN your femininity in male-dominated career fields. Whether you’re in tech, construction, the financial sector, or even trumpet, it’s important to stay true to yourself and not let the male-domination cramp your style and overall femininity.

When I was a freshman in college, I was told in my professional development course for engineers that I needed to dress a certain way. Yes, they told me that to get a job, I needed to wear a very specific outfit that looked something like this:

Well that was NOT my style in the least bit, nor is it now as I’m finishing up my first year being a “real adult” with a “real job.” I was honestly so taken aback by the fact that they were, and still are, teaching young women that to be an engineer, you need to DRESS like a man. Now, don’t get me wrong – pant suits can be very flattering and I do think there is a time and a place for that. But do I need to wear one every day? Is that the only outfit that will get me a job? No, of course not! You should feel free to wear whatever professional attire you want to! Obviously no crop tops and short shorts in the work place chica, but if you want to wear a dress, or a skirt, or a nice pair of dress pants with a cute shirt, GO FOR IT. And if the time comes where you need to wear a pant suit, but you like pops of color in your wardrobe, don’t feel confined to the traditional black suit! Wearing what you are comfortable with and what makes you feel the best version of yourself will make you a better, more productive employee overall.

The other thing I want to touch on in regards to this “mandated dress code” is that if your company/team/etc wears jeans every day of the week, and you ALSO want to wear jeans, go for it! There should never be a reason you need to dress up while all the men around you are dressing down just because you need to “prove yourself” as a woman. Women should only need to prove themselves with their brain and their work ethic, just like men, and not their wardrobe.

Something else I had a really tough time adjusting to out of college was the lack of women around me to chat with about girl things (nails, our relationships, hair, etc). But all of the men at work had plenty of other men to talk to about men things. I would come home absolutely drained (hello, extrovert here!) and then the problem would only be exacerbated by the fact the only person I saw at home was my male fiancé, and working a full-time job suddenly made it a lot harder to see my girlfriends frequently. The best things to do in this situation are:

  • Try to bond with the women you work with, if there are any. It can be about anything, but having just one thing to talk about is always better than nothing.
  • Put more effort into your relationships with your girlfriends, even if it’s just a quick text or FaceTime call.
  • Just be yourself at work! If there’s a time to interject in a conversation, do it! Don’t be afraid to speak up and join in on the conversation.

Lastly, do your hair. Do your makeup. Put on some cute clothes. Get ready just like you would on the weekends (but obviously make it professional!). Or get ready like you did in college. Get ready however you feel most comfortable. Because the more you make yourself comfortable at work, the more you’ll be able to give to your job, your relationships with your coworkers, and ultimately your home life (better days at work = better nights at home).

Be sure to check out the podcast, subscribe to these posts, and follow my Instagram (@TheGalacticGal) for more #womeninSTEM inspiration!