God bless the lovely “Colored Computers” and Hidden Figures author, Margot Lee Shetterly, for bringing to light the significance of diversity in STEM fields. In addition to the women spotlighted in the book and movie (Katerine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan), there are so many other successful women, and I am proud to be one!
I graduated from the University of Michigan in Aerospace Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics. Yes, it was difficult, but I knew I could do it because people had done it before me. I just have a problem solving kind of brain! I always tell my students that Engineering is simply problem solving, but instead of using guess-and-check we must use math and science to prove we have the best solution! Since seeing the movie on opening night, I wanted to share my own insight and perspective about what it’s really like to be a Hidden Figure in 2017.
Things that have changed since 1961
- No skirts and no pearls! Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a reality so I must wear pants everyday along with my safety glasses and steel toe shoes. (I plan to create a women’s line of steel toes!)
- I barely have to touch a door. My male counterparts will stop in their tracks, reverse and re-open a door for me on the regular.
- My coworkers and me strive for not only diversity, but also inclusion in my African-American Employee Resource Group.
- Influencing skills are Imperative! Instead of working behind the scenes, I have to be in the forefront and lead a team to improve Change Management once we arrive to a solution.
- My company president knows my name, and I have a private office, Boyee!
Things that haven’t changed since 1961
- There are still Amazing bosses that will encourage me to do better than my best! Although unstated, “Don’t embarrass me” is not just a reflection of my manager, but also a representation of my race and gender.
- Restrooms are still less available for women. My second closest bathroom in my last 2 departments is at least 100 feet farther than the second closest men’s, but it’s always empty!
- I have continued to hone my communication style, which is basically to let the guys talk in circles and in one sentence re-direct them to the solution. “Guys, Push the Green button.”
- Family and friends have No clue what I do at work, and they just call me a rocket scientist even though I work as a Sr. Quality Engineer on Oil and Gas Turbines.
- Strangers are continually shocked at my career as a full-time engineer, full-time MBA student, and ’emotionally full-time’ entrepreneur leading Adorn The World, LLC.
I love being an engineer. I love being a female engineer.
I love being a black female engineer.
I am not hidden. I was created to SHINE!
Similar to this Hidden Figures movement, I will continue to encourage underserved and underrepresented minorities to become engineers and entrepreneurs. If you still haven’t seen Hidden Figures (and heard the amazing soundtrack), RUN and go see it!