In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The seventh blog in this series features Nichole Au, a chemical engineer currently working in ECBC's Detection Engineering Branch.
My advice to young women who aspire to be scientists or engineers is to challenge yourself and never back down just because you are afraid to fail. You have to put aside your fears of failure, and you can surprise yourself with your ability to rise to the occasion. People have difficulty with the concept that it’s ok to struggle, everyone has to go through similar challenges. Unfortunately, many young women are never given any positive reinforcement like “You can be an engineer” or “You can excel at math and science,” and they give up. Or worse, they never try in the first place. I was lucky; I always knew I could be an engineer because my dad never let me think otherwise. (My family is full of engineers: electrical, civil, environmental, computer, and chemical. Both men and women.) If you have the aspirations to be a scientist or engineer, you’ll never know if you can do it unless you try.
Just know that sometimes, when you will walk into a room, you may be the only female present. The military is another traditionally male environment. An important skill to learn is how to adapt, to be professional no matter what your environment. It does take time to get used to the culture of a military organization (and the acronyms), but if you conduct yourself professionally, you will have no problem adjusting. In my experience, even in the company of mostly males, no one expects anything different from me than they would a male counterpart. People expect you to do your job. As long as you get the job done, you will have the respect of your peers, male or female, civilian or military.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.