The first day of college, I woke up at 6 AM to straighten by hair. I wore some tight, form fitting Armani Exchange jeans, a Bebe top, and 3-inch pumps. The sound of my clacking down the hall and along the walk to my first class received LOTS of attention, to say the least. I walked into my Civil Engineering 301 with my head high.
As soon as I sat down a boy sitting in front of me turns around and says, “Hey, this is CE 301 just in case you are in the wrong class”. Excuuuuuse me? Haha
I knew I didn’t LOOK “like an engineer”, but this was supposed to be college. This was supposed to be a step above high school and everyone was supposed to be “open-minded” and “accepting”. Little did I know that the fun was just beginning.
Not only am I a woman in engineering, but I am a LATINA in engineering. And if that weren’t enough to set me apart from my colleagues and peers, I am a Latina who reads Cosmo, wears heels, and loves mint and gold office supplies. 3 strikes and I’m out.
Throughout my college career I was judged by the way I looked more than by how smart I actually was. It really took a toll on me during my third year and I felt like I couldn’t go on. Advisers and mentors I had all kept telling me, “Maybe engineering just isn’t for you”. On top of everything, I was one of few Latinas in my classes. Of course, all the Latina/os stuck together by joining organizations such as Pi Sigma Pi and SHPE. But, for a while, that wasn’t enough for me.
I was kicked out from UT and the engineering school 5 semesters in a row. Each time, I appealed and managed to be let back in. I graduated high school as a junior and went straight to college. I was 17 and I honestly was not mature enough to handle college. The first year there was the toughest. I was going back home almost every weekend because I just couldn’t deal.
The years went by and with the help of my sorority sisters (KDChi woot woot!), my engineering friends, and my family I was able to pull though. Still, most of my peers and professors didn’t really take me seriously.
When time flew by and I was walking the stage at graduation, I felt like all the stereotypes were washed away. I felt empowered and invincible. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to. Now I was headed into the real world and it was time to look for a job.
Each day that I had an interview went a little like this:
- Straighten Hair
- Do Makeup
- Iron Suit
- Put on Blouse and Skirt
- Eat Something Light
- Go Over Resume
- Go Over Company Profile
- Put on Blazer and Heels
- Head to Interview
Interview after interview and each time I did the same thing before heading out the door. Every interview was a little the same. I would meet with an HR head (usually a woman) who would talk to me about the company. Then I was led to a conference room where two to four engineers (always, always upper middle class white men) would interview me.
My second to last interview, I met with 4 VPs of a prominent civil engineering firm based out of Texas. I wasn’t intimidated and I really thought I KILLED that interview. When the HR head emailed me a couple of weeks later she told me they were looking for someone with more “knowledge and experience” and someone more “serious” about the job. I felt like I had all of these qualities and was confused as to why I didn’t get the job.
Two weeks before my lease was up, my senior project design professor sent out an email about a job opening. I applied the very same day and hoped for the best. My parents had given me up to the end of my lease to find a job in Austin and if I couldn’t, I would move back home and work for my dad’s firm. Obviously, I wanted to stay in Austin since I had just met Julian.
Later that week I received a call from the company I had applied to work for asking me to come in for an interview on Friday of the same week. I agreed, even though I was going home that Friday to introduce Julian to my parents. The week flew by and I ended up staying up late the night before packing for my trip. I had also started packing up my apartment since I was to move out a week later.
By the time I knew it, it was Friday morning and I was running late. My interview was set for 7:30 AM and I woke up about 40 minutes before then. I started freaking out and realized I had packed my favorite suit. I started tearing up. I wanted to cry. Why is this happening to me?!?! I didn’t have time to get ready or get prepared. I looked in my closet and thought, “Welp, guess I will wear my mom’s old caca green suit”.
- I skipped the shower.
- I wrapped my hair in a bun.
- I swiped some moisturizer and decided makeup was just going to have to wait.
- I looked over the company profile and decided to finish reading it on the ride over.
- I was out the door in less than 20 minutes.
I looked “presentable” and professional, but I just did not feel good about myself walking in to the interview. I felt self conscience the whole time. I could hear my mom in my head getting mad at me for not showering or doing my hair. The interview went great, like all the others. I wasn’t getting my hopes up this time, especially since I was not feeling that great to begin with.
A week later I got the call that I got the job. I GOT THE JOB! I was relieved and could not wait to go apartment hunting, furniture shopping, and “work clothes” shopping.
My first day of work I wore a hot pink blouse and a black pencil skirt with my best heels of course. I had time to shower and straighten my hair. As soon as my boss saw me walk in, he was taken aback. He looked at me like I was a ghost. From that point on, I realized that no matter how smart I am there’s always going to be someone that looks at me different because of the way I look and dress.
This post goes out to all the Latinas working and living in a man’s world! Cheers to us!
I am a Latina in a man’s world and that means I am always going to encounter someone who does not think I should be there. And it continues to happen, but now I let each situation empower me and encourage me to SHOW them that I AM A BOSS.
This is a man’s world and I living in it. Might as well have my skirts, heels, and super chic office accessories to help me get through this life!
Stay in love,