It is 2019, and women have come a long way—we’re CEOs, directors, managers, and more. But even when strong women find success, we do still tend to face issues in the workplace. Biomedical engineering is still a male-dominated career, although the number of women faces are beginning to rise.
I graduated with my biomedical engineering degree in 2014 and soon after began working with Stanford Health Care as a contractor. This was my first real job after graduation, and I had no clue what was in store for me. I remember walking in to a department full of men. The only other females there at the time was the admin, a supervisor, and an analyst. The department had about 40 biomeds overall.
Most of my colleagues had more working experience than me. Despite that, I was willing to learn as much as I could. As time went on, I finally became a full-time employee and started taking on more responsibilities, such as dealing with vendors and paperwork assignments. Today, I’m the main point of contact for the respiratory department and have taken on several projects such as activation projects with the project managers. The relationships I have developed continue to grow, and I continue to provide support to these individuals since they reach out to me for my keen eye for detail.
My advice for women in biomedical engineering is that, when trying to take on more responsibilities, you must prove that you are able to be a strong, independent worker who doesn’t need much assistance. Unfortunately, even today a strong woman who sticks up for what she believes is right can get a negative label in the workplace. I’ve experienced male colleagues who did not take criticism with grace and would file a complaint in response. Instead of being “that person” and retaliating, I’ve learned to absorb these incidents and continue to prove my self-worth.
Many women are still suffering through their own work-related problems, which is why I thought it would be beneficial for me to share that you are not alone! In any professional field, women fear pregnancy discrimination, gender pay gaps, and of course sexual harassment, but these fears should not hold women back from trying to advance.
It can be tough to be a minority in our field, but it’s important that we be role models to those who want to take this same path in the future. To all the women who are new biomeds, I say—stay strong! Continue to work hard because, trust me, it does not go unnoticed.
Preet Kaur is a biomedical engineer at Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, CA.