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REP: The “Klingon” to Stereotypes

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In Klingon: Nuqneh!

In “Texan”: Hi y’all

In Spanish: ¡Buenos días amigos! ¿Qué honda?

In “uber Girly-girl”: Like, ewh my gosh, hi!

In Binary code: 01101000 01101001

In short, “hi.” In my last blog post I talked about how much I enjoyed being in the Rotation Engineers Program (REP) and working for Intel. Has the novelty worn off since? No…knock on wood, stay humble, crosses fingers. One thing has changed though, I feel a little older and a little wiser (mostly the latter).

I realized before joining the REP and Intel that I was concerned (and consumed) by the fear of entering the stereotypical large company workforce. I also had subconscious fears of other stereotypes. What kind of stereotypes did I associate with a top Fortune 500 tech company? As a female? And graduate of a tech school? Here are a few things that came to mind (Note: these are perceived stereotypes, either by me or the general public):

Stereotypes of Intel (what I thought):

  • Intel is 60% Computer Scientists and Electrical Engineers (What could I offer as a Materials Scientist???)

  • Intel employees are 67% male (Will it be difficult to meet females? Females my age?)

  • Intel employees are all fluent in at least 3 computer languages (Did I mention I am a Materials Engineer?)

  • Intel employees can hack your computer in 1min, with one hand tied behind his/her back (Note to self: re-watch Die Hard 4, create ridiculously hard-to-crack passwords, and store passwords in vault)

Stereotypes of Females In Technical Fields:

  • Only males are good at science and math, ipso facto males make the best engineers

  • Women are only good at “softer” skills/social sciences

  • Women in science/tech fields aren’t the most attractive

Stereotypes of being an Engineer:

  • Engineers are socially and physically awkward (okay, sometimes true)

  • Engineers have pale skin and only go outside when absolutely necessary

  • Engineers do not play sports

  • Engineers are all Trekkies or die-hard Star Wars fans

As a young Latina and female engineer, I break many stereotypes, yet I found myself having some preconceptions about what to expect. But sometimes we all need reminders that not all stereotypes are true—and through my short time with the REP and Intel, I have found reminders—particularly, in the REP.

REP Breaks Stereotypes: (see collage below)

  • REP is ~52% female

  • REs are social, EXTREMELY social. How social you ask? Within the first couple days of meeting each other, we were clubbing together in California after hours (work hard, play hard!)

  • 99% of REs have played some sort of sport (Smart jocks DO exist!)

  • REs know how to get their GTL on (That’s Gym, Tan, Laundry for the non-Jersey Shore fans.)

faces of engineers-thumb-600x399

The many faces of engineers…pretty aren’t they? Starting in the top left corner moving clockwise: Me (REP 2011), Michelle (’11), Kevin (’11), Justin (’10), Patrick (’11), Ana (’10), Chytra(’11), and Brittany (’10).

But that isn’t to say that everyone in the REP, or myself, are complete anomalies and do not have nerd qualities. In fact, we’re proud of our nerdiness—haven’t you heard that geek is chic? I am merely hoping to point out, that we are equally as “normal” as the next guy (or gal)…with a little extra nerd knowledge (…and good looks to boot!) So in the interest of illuminating the fallacy of stereotypes and playing devil’s advocate, I would like to offer a few examples from my personal life, in favor of and against stereotypes.

Stereotypes I Fit As a Nerd/MIT graduate/Intel Engineer (see collage below):

  • I love all things Batman, Spiderman, and superhero related

  • I can play Magic the Gathering Card Game …and I may have read parts of some books

  • The first section I jump to in a newspaper is “science/technology”

  • I like taking things apart to figure out how they work

my cube-thumb-600x406

Things That Make Me an Anti-nerd:

  • I love shopping and all things fashion

  • I like dancing and listening to pop music too much (Britney Spears, Gaga, Beyonce, Rihanna….)

  • I enjoy playing sports (tennis, basketball, volleyball, ping-pong, golf, football)

  • I can be described as a social butterfly

  • And, the biggest anti-nerd thing (I-wonder-why-MIT—didn’t-kick-me-out, how-on-earth-did-Intel-and-my-manager-hire-me)…I’ve never seen Star Wars (…there! I put it out there, please don’t judge me!)

How is Intel, as a whole, different? Well, I’ve learned that Intel is a strong proponent of hiring women, minorities, people with disabilities, veterans, and other diverse groups. As the percent of such groups entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields increases, so does their respective representation. Are things completely balanced? For instance, is our male to female ratio 1:1? Mmm, not quite, but we’re working on it. Are there awkward engineers? You betcha! (But are there awkward people in other roles too? Absolutely!) Will stereotypes endure even after the education system and workforce come into dynamic stability? Probably. But the most important thing Intel can do is continue supporting a diverse workforce and celebrate the qualities that make us unique individuals. Particularly, because different perspectives and opinions encourage new ways of thinking, and this is exactly what is needed to continue to be innovative!

So for all you folks, here is a little advice: Ladies, I encourage you to embrace your inner nerd! Nerds, embrace your beauty! Men, welcome the women (especially in tech fields :-)). And, keep breaking the mold! We are trending towards homeostasis, through a self-catalyzed reaction.

Finally, what do you think? Is there still a “cling on” to stereotypes? Or, is geek chic? Are there stereotypes you’ve found aren’t quite true? Completely false? What preconceptions do/did you have about STEM fields?