A Female Engineer Explains How She Thrives In a Male-Dominated Industry

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By Kathleen Elkins

Only 14% of engineers in the US are women.

While this statistic, reported by the US Congress Joint Economic Committee, has significantly improved since the early 1980s, when just 5.8% of engineers were female, women are still heavily underrepresented in engineering, among many other fields.

Aixa Lopez is one of them.

She's an industrial engineer who entered the field because of her passion for fixing things.

In a recent LinkedIn post, she articulates her passion, and explains the road bumps that have come with her decision to enter a male-dominated field.

Doing what she loves has not always been easy: "After 20+ years in this career, I am still dealing with some situations," she writes. "At the beginning of my career it was shocking and extremely emotional. I faced everything; from sexist comments, harassment, humiliation, jokes, boredom, to being accused of being emotional and/or weak."

She draws on personal experience to share 10 ways for women to deal with the difficulties of representing the minority in their work space.

Here are three pieces of advice that Lopez offers:

1. Speak up

"Men are really good at this," writes Lopez. "We tend to stay silent in meetings (I am guilty of this and still struggle with it). We think that we should talk only when there's something extremely important to say."

One of her tricks to stay engaged and be an active participant is to ask questions. "This will make you part of the conversation and will give you the chance to learn and to share your own experiences."

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses

It's no secret that we all have weaknesses. It is not only important to recognize where your weaknesses lie, but it is critical to actively work towards improving your weaknesses, by asking for help or advice.

Lopez elaborates, "Reaching out to male colleagues is a positive thing. When you ask them for help is a way of telling them 'I am not here to fight with you but to learn from you and work with you.' It's very liberating for both parts."

3. Embrace who you are and what contributions you can make

Being a part of the 14%, and not the 86% majority, does not undermine your value. Lopez discovered her passion and ran with it.

"Embrace what you are capable of, show it to the world and let them see what you can do," she encourages. "That is what you are here for. Never feel guilty of your value as a professional and as a human being."

Your career is in your hands. Do not let a statistic define you, or a number decide your career path.

For all 10 of Lopez's insights, read here.
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