During World War 2, many women joined the war effort by taking jobs traditionally held by men. The women worked in factories and shipyards as drafters, welders, boilermakers, and more. These women became known as “Rosies”. The now iconic image of the rosie with the red bandana and the words “We Can Do It!” was an inspirational image to boost worker morale at the time, but now lives on as a symbol of women in the workplace, women’s empowerment, and the grit and determination of women.
My office is located around the corner from the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park, in the home of the original Ford Factory. It is an inspiration to work where these women broke down so many barriers.
At the Visitor Center, I have had the privilege of hearing Ranger Betty Reid Soskin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Reid_Soskin) share her story as a black woman working on the home front during the war. We frequently hear about the welders and riveters, but we don’t hear about the Rosies, quietly toiling away in the offices, segregated because of their race. Betty emphasizes how important it is that everyone’s stories are told and remembered. She has remarked “what gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering”, and these words continue to ring true. Her legacy and the legacy of so many other black women is known because she fought for her seat at the table to tell her story. After hearing Betty’s story, I have been inspired to not only share her story but also to hear others and to try to spread their message.
I was also able to hear Mae Krier (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/07/21/mae-krier-rosie-riveter/) share her story. Mae and other Rosies were on their way to the Pearl Harbor anniversary in December 2021 and made a stop in California. I asked Mae what she would have me share with other young women who want to follow in her footsteps. Her advice was simple and yet poignant: “We have brains too.” This statement, which seems so obvious, speaks to a time when women’s abilities were doubted with such regularity that just reminding women that they too can think is critical. Have we come far enough from this? We are so often plagued by imposter syndrome or told by others that we are not enough. In these instances, remember Mae’s words. She also said: “Don’t give up. We learn more from our mistakes”. As an engineer, this advice resonated with me. The difference between an ok engineer and a great engineer is one who can take the lessons from the failures and learn from them. Whether it be a failed component or a bug in code, if we don’t use these as learning opportunities, we are missing chances to grow, improve, and embrace the spirit of the Rosies that paved our way. How you learned from your mistakes to make your project or yourself better makes for great reading on resumes.
Failure is not the opposite success; it is part of success.