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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

Engineering is an infamously male-dominated profession. When I decided to take it on as my major, I was determined to be unfazed by the numbers. However, when you get to ground zero, and by that, I mean the nitty gritty industrial corners of Tuas in Singapore, being outnumbered in the workplace is intensely overwhelming. I found that I wanted to prove that I deserved to be there, although I made it there just the same as all of my male peers did.  

I always kept an eye out for the women achieving leaps and bounds in what seems like an environment that doesn’t let them reach high up on the professional ladder. This is in hopes that I can learn what’s something, if anything, they have done differently to conquer this male-dominated profession. Elizabeth Holmes was one such woman in tech. As the founder of the now-defunct biotechnology company Theranos, she took Silicon Valley by storm. Her then-successful “Girl-Boss” story is sometimes credited to how she invoked the aura of a strong male presence. Holmes did this by how she dressed in more monotone, Steve Jobs-esque clothing and allegedly deepening her voice. The journey of owning our femininity is different for everyone. For me, it was embracing all the stereotypes society often tags as “too girly”. I have seen how sometimes the people who adopted a tomboy image were looked at as “cooler” and commanded a room better than someone girly. All this made me wonder if I could ever achieve the kind of presence I want in my profession without giving up what I consider my femininity. 

I recently came across an email where the coordinators of a career event asked women not to dress “too sexily”. What is “too sexy”? This made me think of all the times I’ve gotten conscious of my outfit. It’s been a long journey to accept and love my body, embrace clothes that show off my curves, and not be ashamed I’m not a size 0. However, I am still plagued with thoughts that make me question if the top I’m wearing is too tight at the bust and is giving off a “wrong impression”. When I looked around and saw men sporting tight t-shirts at my workplace, I wondered how no one was batting an eyelid at that. I took a step back and saw that this boils down to years of sexualising women and their bodies and our double standards as a society. Why did I doubt the image I put across when men could come in the laziest outfit and still be seen as the ones running the place? But more importantly, why did I have to wear a power suit to give off the same vibe? 

I might head to a dusty warehouse every day, but I don’t want this to stop me from colour-coordinating my outfit head to toe. I’ve learned not to be afraid of showing how emotionally vulnerable I am.  I realised that embracing my outer image is just as important as how I assumed my inner truths. The flower hairclip I had on didn’t make me perform poorly at my job. The pink in my outfit didn’t mean I could not stand my ground on decisions I believed in. I loved the way they looked on me, and that’s that. It didn’t interfere with my work as an engineer, and it can be so hard to see that. 

We need more women in engineering. We’ve come a long way, but the journey is not done just yet. If I saw more women embracing their femininity as engineers, I think it would have motivated my own journey of the same. I look forward to doing that to future women in engineering. Girls, put on that blush on your cheeks, the dangly earrings, sparkle on your nails, go all out, sport the confidence and happiness that gives you and be the extraordinary engineer you were meant to be.

Sanjana Ramesh

Nanyang Tech '23

All queens must have their crown, well this one prefers hairbands. Sanjana is pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at Nanyang Tech and if she isn't out being a woman of STEM, she enjoys being a plant mom, kindle owner and K-Drama aficionado.