For the past few years I have been witnessing a lot of ‘girl on girl crime’ in regards to makeup. Girls being shamed by other girls for wearing too much or not enough. In the past couple months I have been seeing this in the STEM community more than ever and with the FIRST Championship right around the corner I thought I would bring some light to this issue. I am in no way speaking for every woman. I am simply sharing my thoughts and my experiences on the matter.
My senior year of high school I was in a project based engineering class with mostly men. Usually this wasn't an issue until a group of them used this picture in one of their presentations to the class…
Not only is this sexist in almost every way possible but it further perpetuates the stereotype that female engineers can’t be beautiful. This pertinent stereotype of females engineers has been plaguing us for awhile and we have been fighting it. In August of 2015, software engineer Isis Anchalee Wenger was featured in an ad for her company, OneLogin. People didn't believe she was actually an engineer because she was ‘too pretty.’ This outraged women in the STEM community and they took to twitter. Using the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer the story gained national coverage. But what does this have to do with makeup at regionals and why talk about it now?
A few weeks ago someone mentioned to me how much they hate it when girls wear too much makeup at robotics competitions. This brought up a lot of feelings for me because I have had people tell me that I look too ‘glamed up’ for robotics for years. The fact of the matter is, I just like wearing makeup. I honestly just feel more put together and ready for the day when I put it on. I never saw an issue with me matching my eyeshadow to my teams colors. I honestly felt like I was expected to fit into the ‘female engineer stereotype’ in order to be taken seriously. It felt conflicting to everything us women in STEM have been fighting against. This comment made me think about how I use to dress in high school. I would often be seen sporting hot pink nail polish, rhinestoned shoes, and dresses. You would be surprised how many times mentors on my robotics team commented on how I looked. It was almost as if I needed to dress like ‘one of the boys’ to be respected like one. My team is not the only one who struggles with this thought process. At Champs in 2014, Jane Cosmetics had a booth and was giving out free ‘makeovers’ to anyone who walked up. This was because their CEO Lynn Tilton was going to be a speaker at the awards ceremony. Tilton’s runs the largest woman-owned business in the country and in addition to makeup brands she is also oversees several technology companies. However, when she featured Jane Cosmetics instead of one of her technology companies, the FIRST community got upset. I understand the argument that women are too often expected to wear makeup and fit in the stereotype of “a girl” but in the STEM community I have experienced the opposite. I am not trying to open old wounds but rather bring to light that this is something we should address. Women should be respected regardless of if they enjoy wearing makeup or not.
In May of 2015, NikkieTutorials posted a viral video titled ‘the Power of Makeup’ spreading the message that it’s okay for women to wear a lot of makeup because makeup is fun. This video has gotten over 27 million views. Makeup can be empowering for some people and a burden for others. As you travel to regional competitions and hopefully Champs over the next few weeks I encourage you to look past the exterior of the people you see and focus on the ideas. As females in STEM we often need to work twice as hard to get half the recognition and our ideas should be valued higher than how we look, whether that’s fitting a stereotype or defying it.
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