At first glance, the famed actress Meryl Streep seems like an improbable role model for an up-and-coming engineering professional. But Amy K. Jones, an IEEE Member and a senior systems engineer at John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa, believes that one particular piece of advice from the multi-award winning actress is also useful for women in other professions.
While discussing how to get more obscure movies to play in local theaters, Streep recommended asking the theater manager because “It’s amazing what you can get if you quietly, clearly and authoritatively demand it.”
Jones, who has a driving passion for STEM outreach, now has written an account of her professional journey--and she values Streep’s words so highly that she borrowed them for the title of her e-book. Quietly, Clearly and Authoritatively by Amy Jones is the eleventh and latest volume in the award-winning IEEE-USA Women in Engineering (WIE) E-Book series. The work abounds with occasionally unsettling, but always memorable, anecdotes about situations when the author did--and did not--speak up effectively.
“Despite all the cringe-worthy moments, I believe my failures are the most vital to include,” she writes. She points out that “failure is a pathway to learning.”
Leslie Martinich, chair of IEEE-USA E-Books, observes that Jones is an outstanding role model to whom girls and young women can easily relate. Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-Books, adds, “The author’s resolve to overcome gender bias in both the classroom and the workplace can help to motivate and inspire the next generation of female engineers.”
Except for the first book in the series, an overview of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, each WIE e-book is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist built her career.
In her e-book, Jones, who was honored as the 2014 IEEE-USA New Face of Engineering, and now leads a global team at John Deere that develops products for a diverse customer base--manages to be inspiring, moving and humorous--sometimes, all at the same time.
Recalling one of her undergraduate engineering courses in which she was one of only eight women out of about 100 students, the author describes how the professor thought it was funny to address each of the female students as “Jenny.” His rationale, he told the class, was that he had once dated someone with that name.
“Now, I look back on that class with regret,” she writes. “I wish I would have had the courage to talk to that professor and tell him how his joke came across.” She adds that she also regrets she didn’t worked harder in the class so the highest test score would have gone to a “Jenny”--as well as how a subject she should have done well in became one of her least favorites.
In a chapter about dealing with gender bias in the workplace, Jones discusses how she handles what she calls “benign gender discrimination”--and she gives such examples as being told to smile; having to announce that your engagement doesn’t mean you’re retiring; declining to participate in a team-building activity at a strip club; or answering yet another e-mail addressed to: ‘Gentlemen.’” The author encourages women to advocate for themselves, writing, “You can choose to take the risks that come with speaking up and addressing the issue. It gets easier with practice, and it is the only choice that leads to change.”
Her experiences while working closely with John Deere colleagues in China and India provide humorous, insightful anecdotes. “Together,” she adds, “we have accomplished more than any single location could have done on our own, and the friendships that we’ve built have enriched my life.”
One more volume in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Book Series is scheduled for publication in 2016. Besides the new volume by Amy Jones, the others are:
- Women in Engineering – Book 1: Inspire and Close the Gender Gap by L-3 Warrior Systems systems and software engineering manager and IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair Nita Patel;
- Women in Engineering – Book 2: Passion, Perseverance and Making a Difference by Microsoft data analyst/program manager Maria Vlachopoulou;
- Women in Engineering – Book 3: Passions Can Sustain You: A Personal Career History by consultant Sherry Gillespie;
- Women in Engineering – Book 4: Follow Your Curiosities: Finding Success through Learning by James Madison University assistant professor Jacquelyn Nagel;
- Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth by Broadcom integrated circuits packaging engineer Melissa Lau;
- Women in Engineering – Book 6: Your Career, My Career by Austin consultant Leslie Martinich;
- Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All by Silicon Valley consultant Tanya Candia;
- Women in Engineering – Book 8: The Art of Self-Empowerment by Punam Nagpal of Cisco Corporate Quality.
- Women in Engineering – Book 9: Recognizing & Taking Advantage of Opportunities by consultant Jill S. Tietjen, P.E.
- Women in Engineering – Book 10: My Three Journeys: Finding Professional and Personal Fulfillment as an Engineer, by Oracle principal hardware engineer Jeewicka Ranaweera.
More information about all 11 IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Books is available at the IEEE-USA Shop. The member price for each volume is $7.99; non-IEEE members can purchase them for $9.99 each.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.