• Baker Institute Team

"Trust in my skills and grit"

Updated: Jan 13


"Soft barriers like these are difficult to see but they are often what pushes women out of tech."

Emma Kwasnoski '20 | Newtown, PA

Major | IDEAS: Integrated Mechanical Engineering, Product Design, and Entrepreneurship 


“My daughter switched out of Computer Science. When I asked her why, she said she couldn’t find her ‘tribe,’ her group to study and joke and hang out with, because her class was so predominantly

male. Soft barriers like these are difficult to see but they are what push women out of tech.”

These words, spoken by Tom Gillis at our LSV opening dinner, resonated with me on many levels. As a woman studying Mechanical Engineering, I am keenly aware there is only one of me for every ten guys. As an integrated major in the IDEAS program, I don't belong in Engineering or Design.

I have been told that I am not a “real” engineer.

I have been told to take classes at Moravian because I am not an “actual” design major.

Despite the incredible, tight-knit community I have with other IDEAS students, these comments leave me feeling utterly underqualified.

But today, I met Ann Lewnes: Executive Vice PresChief Marketing Officer and at Adobe, and a Lehigh alum who never took a marketing class. When asked, she was not even familiar with the term “imposter syndrome.” Today, I met Maria Yap: Vice President of Digital Imaging at Adobe, and a design major who never touched an engineering textbook. When faced with any challenge, she asks, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Neither of them took an easy path to get where they are. They both struggled to even get their first jobs out of college, and those jobs were far from ideal. But they did not let their labels define them. They did not let the doubt of others define them. They inspire me to look beyond the labels others have imposed on me, and trust in my skills and grit.

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