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 first blog in this series features Nicki Freeze, General Engineer at Edgewood Chemical Biological Cneter Rock Island.
The best advice I ever received was to not worry about what other people think of you. I would give this same advice to young women as well.
Don’t be intimidated to pursue a career in science or engineering. Don’t think that you’re not smart enough or that you don’t have enough of a technical background to be a scientist. You ARE smart enough and capable of learning technical skills. Don’t believe that male counterparts have some ‘technical leg up’ just because they were born a male. No specific gender is born more inherently technical than the other. If science or engineering interests you, and you like to solve problems, then there’s your answer. Never let fear hold you back.
Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to prove we’re as good or as smart as the next person, but the truth is we have nothing to prove to anyone but ourselves. Let your work speak for itself. Always remember that you can learn something from every person. Everyone has different experiences and different strengths, don’t be afraid to explore them. Diversified backgrounds add to the quality of the final engineering solutions. Don’t feel that asking for project background or additional insight makes you look weak. Understand that all people provide value and be open to considering others’ opinions. Don’t box yourself into an isolated corner because you don’t want to ask for help (whether due to fear or stubbornness).
Working for the Army and specifically ECBC, I haven’t had any real issues working with mostly men. I’m not saying that we have evolved to a place where our career field is gender neutral (we’re not even close). Gender bias exists; but don’t let that hold you back in any way. I honestly believe my male co-workers value my opinion and enjoy working with me, not because I am a female or because I am intelligent, but because I am dependable, I work hard and I follow through. Work ethic is far more important than your gender will ever be –as it should be.
While I believe it’s important to encourage young women to pursue science and engineering fields, I think we could all do a better job of encouraging ALL of our young people to pursue science, engineering and math as viable career paths, not just females.
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.