Save. Spend. Splurge.

When people assume you’re the assistant in a STEM career

I’m also not taken seriously because of my age and looks and it does take time to have them warm up to my skills and trust me (WHICH I FULLY GET), because the stereotype is you can’t look good at the office AND know your job, let alone one that is pretty STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) at its core.

I’ve been in a number of meetings where men and women alike have mistaken me for being the assistant, helper, what have you, instead of being the team lead or project manager.

I was once on a project where someone handed me things to do for the lead, not realizing I WAS the lead.

In the past, I used to somewhat correct then smugly.

Now? I don’t care.

I just correct them gently and that’s it. No smug feelings, more amused if anything.

At the end of the day, what do I care? I’m earning a ton of money for doing something I love.

My typical outfit for work: Shop the look here

The thing is that without makeup and my work gear on (and yes, as evidenced above I DO look like am a woman), I look young enough to pass for a freshman in college, or so strangers have said/mistaken me for. It has been a good 10 years since I’ve graduated so I’m rather flattered.

(My secret? I pile on sunscreen like a mofo, NO JOKE).

There is no escaping that what I do requires logical precision and brainpower but it can be very hard for people to reconcile the two.

Perhaps if I dressed down, I’d be taken more seriously from the get-go, from what I have observed over the years. Neutrals, bland pantsuits, no skirts, no dresses, no colour or accessories whatsoever and absolutely not a stitch of makeup. Basically, a worker robot blending in the background.

As it stands, I don’t care because I ultimately dress for myself the same way I dress for myself as a mother and parent and refuse to slip and slide into sweat/yoga pant territory (I feel weird wearing that out of the context of home or yoga).

This is as casual as it gets. Shop the SUPER comfortable shoes here.

What I have changed is being such an open book at work

No one knows my age, and are too polite to enquire directly although they can extrapolate that if I have a young child, I am therefore also young myself. Presumably. The modern wonders of medicine have changed this somewhat and it is not uncommon now to see mothers over 40.

I also don’t use youthful slang or euphemisms, nor joke in such a manner.

I can do that casually with my partner or family & friends but never at the office. Besides, since I work in French 24/7, I can’t joke the way I can in English. I’m not as witty, I don’t have the cultural background to make such jokes and the vocabulary is also missing.

Ultimately this is all to guard my job

I don’t want people jealous of me because of my age and my presumed income (they know I’m making more than they are but aren’t sure as to the exact amount), and I don’t want them to know.

It is easier this way, and they will feel better not knowing definitively how much I make for such a young person (relatively speaking). Even other freelancers who don’t know my age but know I’m young are sort of jealous .. they didn’t start until their late 40s or 50s and they can guess (but not know for sure) how much I make as an average.

I have a good 20-year head start on them in earnings and that does ruffle feathers. So the best strategy to keep the peace and keep the dough rolling in?

STFU and never talk about your money nor brag at work.

Do the opposite and make sure they think you’re earning peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

Everyone wants and needs to feel like a big fish even if it is in a small pond, otherwise it breeds resentment and I need all the allies I can get to stay employed.


  • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

    I thought you were done reading my blog.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    We know Sense is right. A young man would be feted. We’re … not.

    Whatever. So long as the money is in my pocket!

    The funny thing is that I’m so used to working with younguns with Fire in their belly now (vs 15 years ago when everyone was 10-40 years older than me) that I was so confused to discover one of my staff was actually older than me. I assumed he was younger but because he’s older sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t do his job better. But I’ve decided it doesn’t matter – not everyone can be a superstar and someone has to do the basic work. May as well be someone content with only that.

  • Sense

    🙁 I hate that this is necessary. I feel like if you were a man, you’d be regarded as some genius wunderkind to be emulated instead of put down, and you wouldn’t have to play down your amazing achievements.

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