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Your Stories Don’t Define You, How You Tell Them Will

Jun 26, 2018

JeanAnn Nichols never really thought about what she wanted to do in terms of everyday work to make an income, instead, she decided where she wanted to live, and picked a career that would take her to that place.

Fortunately, she was raised in a household where traditional gender modeling wasn't a thing, so when she decided to go into engineering, it didn't seem unusual or unattainable.

Two parts of our conversation stand out to me:

  • Even in 2016, school children were expressing gender stereotypes. During career day at a local elementary school, as she introduced JeanAnn, the teacher asked the students what they thought she did. The first suggestions? A teacher. A nurse. And while those are wonderful careers, they are traditionally held by women. It's startling to me to hear those traditional ideas in a classroom in 2016.
  • JeanAnn never thought of herself as a trailblazer; her success came because she's competent, and a great ambassador for her people (women, mothers, engineers), and maybe there was a little luck in her corner because she didn't experience the blatant sexism others have experienced. She isn't successful because she's a woman, or in spite of it. She's successful because she's competent, a great communicator, and has the confidence to stand up and do what she wants to do.

Would you consider choosing your career based on where you want to live? I would - and I have - but not with intention.

As always, this conversation made some big twists and turns before coming back to the theme: The stories we tell ourselves are exactly what we will believe.