The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Women engineers: styled for success

Women engineers: styled for success

By Elissa Bryan

This article is in response to “The style of the Lyle School’s women engineers.”

When asked if I am glad I attended engineering school at SMU, I have no hesitation before I answer – I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. When questioned about why I found the experience fulfilling, my answer is once again simple. Lyle provided a unique environment for us to obtain a world-class education while being encouraged to use our skills and talents in unconventional and creative ways. Take a quick glance around Lyle, and you’ll find endless student organizations, clubs, and even classes that cater to unique interests ranging from video gaming to humanitarian relief.

As one of the leading engineering schools nationwide in regard to gender parity, Lyle is living proof that engineering isn’t exclusively a man’s world. More and more, women are finding their way into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, and with the influx of ladies into these fields, the traditional notion of a “girl engineer” is being challenged.

Many young ladies interested in joining the field want to know if they can still be girly and be an engineer. Women working to climb the corporate ladder are exploring the balancing act of corporate progression and fulfilling the conventional roles society has developed for women.

The debate is developing: Can women in engineering really have it all? Can we be feminine and compete with our male counterparts? Can we be strong without sacrificing being graceful? To me, the answers to these questions are simple. We absolutely can achieve all of the aforementioned goals, and those of us entering the field right now have a unique opportunity to help redefine what it means to be a successful woman.

Can we really be feminine?

Defining what it means to be feminine is remarkably subjective, but I think what most girls identify femininity with is wardrobe. While it is true that many engineering jobs may dictate a very specific uniform due to safety precautions, there are also a sundry of engineering jobs out there that don’t require a uniform. Many corporate engineers find themselves in a typical office environment, leaving the dress code up to personal interpretation.

Like it or not, the way we dress is a crucial element in the formation of a first impression. This explains why we dress up for interviews or why there are prescribed dress codes for social events. If my time in corporate America has taught me nothing else, it is that first impressions matter. Studies suggest a first impression is developed in the first seven seconds of meeting someone. That rapid computation of someone’s confidence, competence, assertiveness, approachability, and trustworthiness often sets the tone for a long-term professional relationship.

Since our outward appearance is inherently a part of what makes up others’ perceptions of us, it is important that you feel confident in whatever you wear. As long as you ensure adherence to respectful, appropriate clothing standards, feel free to express yourself through your style. How we dress can say so much about who we are as individuals, and you should celebrate your personal style!

Can we compete with our male counterparts?

As we continue to establish a presence in what has historically been a field dominated by men, women are grappling with the concept of competing with men in the workplace. While competitiveness can breed high performance, I think it is prudent for us to reconsider how we co-exist in corporate America.

We are all gifted with incredibly unique talents and skills, and we should focus on embracing our individuality for the sake of the team. If we foster an environment that encourages differences in thoughts and opinions, we are indubitably setting the team up for success. Find your passions and cultivate them, and leverage your niche within a larger team.

I am a firm believer there is no reason to downplay being a female engineer. After receiving the title of “engineer” and entering the workplace, you will be evaluated on your performance – not your gender.

Can we really have it all? – Redefining Success

Lyle provides an environment that encourages you to delve into as many passions and interests as you please. It is a petri dish for cultivating the aptitudes that make you unique. I still look back at my time at Lyle and am incredibly thankful for the developmental opportunities I had as a young woman.

I have been fortunate to spend the last few years working at a large defense company as an engineer. In my free time, I am an aerobatics pilot and spend much of my time at the airport. I just recently started a style blog, and while I won’t profess to have any wisdom on fashion, I am embracing what it means for me to feel like a successful woman.

I feel fortunate to have grown up professionally within the walls of Lyle. Ironically, it was a setting in which glass walls and ceilings were encouraged to be shattered. As a Lyle Alumna, I feel we were afforded so many opportunities when we were accepted into SMU’s engineering school. We have such an important role to play, and I hope we can all work together to redefine what it means to be a successful woman engineer!

Elissa Bryan graduated from SMU in 2014 getting her degree in EMIS. She currently works as a Systems Engineer specializing in Combat Air Operations Analysis. In her free time she enjoys flying planes and is currently launching her own fashion blog:

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