Stay true to yourself! Young ladies should also remember that they are more than a stereotype!
Who is Paige Brown?
Hello! I am Paige Brown, a native of Ahoskie, North Carolina and a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Aggie Pride! I am an electrical engineer by trade but a passionate STEM education advocate and educator (mostly in informal learning settings) at heart. As an electrical engineer, I have experience in the aircraft and medical device industries. As a black female in engineering, I have been exposed to technical settings that have not always been inclusive of people of color or women. To escape those harsh environments, I began devoting my time to educating and exposing students to the world of STEM. I enjoy teaching students in any setting, classroom and beyond, about the field of engineering and how to maximize their success throughout their educational career. Volunteering with organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and small-scale community efforts in my hometown allowed my passion for STEM education to grow. This zeal for working with students led me to pursue my Ph.D. in Engineering Education, where my current research interests involve understanding the experiences of black women in the engineering workforce (fueled by my own personal experiences) and K-12 engineering education of underrepresented minorities. I plan to continue my work and strive for a greater impact in the field of engineering to provide a more inclusive environment for women of color and minorities.
B.S. Electrical Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University
M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning, Liberty University
Ph.D. Student (Engineering Education), Purdue University
Special Awards or Recognition
Black Engineer of the Year Award for Community Service (2014)
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Golden Torch Award for Pre-College Director of the Year (2014)
Women of Color Technology Rising Star Award (2013)
How did you choose to pursue this field?
Honestly, when high school graduation was approaching, I had no idea that I wanted to pursue engineering. I was sure of the college that I wanted to attend, NC A&T; however, I was battling to figure out what field I wanted to pursue. There were not many STEM programs for students in my community when I was growing up, so I didn’t have access to the many opportunities that expose students to STEM early on. Fortunately, my uncle and older cousin, both engineers, encouraged me to major in engineering. They both had been very successful in engineering and thought that since I was good in math and science, that engineering may be a good fit for me. So with little debate, I chose electrical engineering.
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
My older cousin Donna, who I mentioned earlier, was an electrical engineer. I looked up to her in so many ways. I wanted to be just like her! She was the most inspirational role model that influenced my decision to major in electrical engineering.
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?
Electrical engineering was my first choice; however, I’d like to note that I chose electrical engineering, not based on my personal passions or dreams, but because of familial influence. Consequently, while pursuing my engineering degree, I often asked myself “is this really what you want to do?” I found myself enjoying working with students of all ages through mentoring, tutoring, and volunteer work. I remember one day during my senior year of college while working a part-time job at an early childhood education center thinking “this is what I’m supposed to be doing – working with students! I don’t know how or in what way, but this is it.” I finally discovered or came to the realization that my passion was working with students but I was about to graduate so I couldn’t change my major. I continued on with engineering and found ways to work with students while also working full-time as an engineer.
I became very involved with the National Society of Black Engineers and working with students. Teaching students engineering and serving as a mentor is fulfilling to my soul. Though I am currently working as an engineer, I am also pursuing my Ph.D. in Engineering Education and in the future, I hope to make a slight transition to the educational world, but still keeping engineering at the center.
What do you love most about your job or career?
I love the fact that the work that I do impacts the safety and well-being of everyday people. To help protect the public health by ensuring medical devices are safe, effective, and accessible is something great to be a part of!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
As mentioned, the work that I do impacts the safety and well-being of everyday people. It is rewarding to help protect public health by ensuring medical devices are safe and effective.
What things would you want to see changed about your current field of study or job?
I would change the exclusionary culture that can sometimes be found at my job but is definitely present in the larger field of engineering altogether. Engineering has historically been dominated, my white men. Not much has changed. I think there is a need for more diversity and more opportunities for people of color.
What are the most difficult things or disappointing aspect of your job?
The most difficult and disappointing aspect of my job is the lack of diversity. This is not just at my job; it is the entire field of engineering in general. Black women are grossly underrepresented in engineering. Many women leave the field within the first 5 years after entering. Some attribute this to isolation, mistreatment, microaggressions, and other inequalities in the workplace. Unfortunately, I have experienced these things and engineering environments that haven’t always been inclusive to people who look like me. I’ve had to learn how to overcome these challenges and stand up for myself demonstrating my worth, value, and that I am knowledgeable and in fact can do my job well.
What tips would you offer to anyone thinking about entering into your profession/field of study?
I would say upfront that engineering is not easy. It is challenging but with hard work and persistence, you can definitely become successful in engineering, especially if it is something that you love. I would encourage young women to find mentors in their profession because these people can provide you with insight and guidance that will be very beneficial to their continued growth and development. Learn how to stand up for yourself early on! People will test you and you must be able to hold your ground. That is why it is so important to be knowledgeable in your area of expertise. So “know your stuff” and be prepared always!
How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?
I have to combat the stigma of being a “woman of color in STEM” every day! Every day I show up and put my best foot forward in everything that I do. I stay abreast of everything that is going on within the organization, I complete my work accurately and on time, I go above and beyond, and I take the initiative to lead when feasible. I make sure that I show them that this black woman is intelligent, she can do anything you can do, and she belongs! I’ve written an entire book about how to overcome challenges in the workplace as a black woman. This book provides strategies that have been helpful for me in combating obstacles at work as a woman of color.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?
After graduating from college I entered into the white, male-dominated field of engineering with imposter syndrome. I doubted myself and I questioned whether I belonged. I wish I would have known upfront that I belonged, had something valuable to contribute and was just as capable as anyone else. I would tell my younger self that “You belong and you can do anything you set your mind to. You are a strong black woman who can proudly go into the engineering field and succeed. You have the same qualifications as your white, male counterpart and therefore you can be confident in all that you do!”
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?
For young ladies interested in STEM, I would say if this is something they are really interested in pursuing, don’t let anyone deter them away. You should always stick with your passions and interests because that is what will keep you happy and fulfilled at the end of the day. Stay true to yourself! Young ladies should also remember that they are more than a stereotype. Although there are few people of color and women in certain STEM fields, you shouldn’t let this stop you from pursuing the career of your choice. Show the world that you can break stereotypes and barriers and contribute your knowledge to your field of choice.
What is your favorite quote?
There are two bible verses that really resonate with me spiritually and in my professional career.
The first is James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
The second is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
These verses let me know that God has a plan for my life. A plan that includes me flourishing and thriving, so when I encounter trials and challenges, I don’t worry. I face those challenges head-on knowing that they will only make me stronger and better. To date, I have continued to flourish and thrive in my career even when faced with hard times. So just as God has a plan for me, He has one for every young woman of color pursuing STEM!
What are your future goals related to your career?
Completing my Ph.D. in Engineering Education is my main goal at this point. In the future, I also aim to continue to support black women and girls in STEM through education and other informal programs and support networks!
How has your family been a great influence or support system?
My family has been one of my biggest support systems throughout my journey. There have been times when I have wanted to give up and quit but they have always been there to encourage me through it all. It is important that young women have a support system whether that is family or a close network of friends that are there to cheer them on. I have also found family within affinity groups or organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers. Being able to talk with others who share my struggle has been very helpful. We have been there to support and lift each other up.
What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?
While pursuing my undergraduate degree in engineering, I was in the marching band at NC A&T. I was Golden Delight, a dancer and baton twirler!
Instagram – @mrspaigebrown
We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.