Dirty Job

From First, I am an

I was a junior in college when one of my male classmates came up to me after a lecture. I didn’t know his name. He bluntly, without any introduction, asked me why I’m not a nurse.

“What do you mean?”

“Usually smart girls study nursing, not petroleum engineering.”

I looked at him, completely stunned.

“Girls don’t like dirty jobs, so they go into nursing,” he continued.”

“Maybe I’m an engineer because I would rather be covered in mud and sweat than a nurse handling people’s piss and shit.”

Nursing is hard work, and I have a lot of respect for those who have that calling and can deal with bodily fluids. I can’t believe he thought that was a clean job.

The comment shook me and confirmed my worst fears; that people in the industry would think that I don’t belong, simply because I am a woman. When I was interviewing for jobs, my gender came up in nearly every single one. I finally just started correcting interviewers and telling them that I’m an engineer, not a woman.

Thankfully, I have been working as an engineer for a few years now and I have carved a space for myself in the industry. My gender still comes up sometimes in discussions with some ignorant individuals, but I still deal with them the same way that I dealt with my classmate and my interviewers. I am sharp, and to the point.

If you’re a woman in STEM, you have earned your place. You belong here. This is yours. Don’t give an inch.

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