I am an Indian woman who made a different choice than most women I know: I chose to pursue mechanical engineering. When I announced my decision to my family, my mom was so tense that she didn't speak to me for a week. Everyone tried to convince me that it was the wrong choice. They explained to me the many reasons I couldn't and shouldn't do it. The only one who supported me was my father.
I was the only woman in a class of 60. I tried to blend in by cutting my hair short and by wearing jeans and tees throughout the course. It was a hard time for me. For all four years in college, nobody asked how I was doing with my studies. The only thing I asked was, why was I studying this at all?
After 10 years of experience in this field, I can safely say that I made the right choice. I have a good job at a reputed company. But my real lean in moment came years later, when I had to decide whether or not to rejoin the workforce after I had a child.
I did not know where my place was: should I stay home, or should I try to balance both my family and my career? We had a family meeting with my in-laws, who agreed to stay with us in our home and help care for my daughter. That's when I realized: you don't have to lean in alone.
They say it takes a village and it's true. Knowing that all of us would chip in made it much less daunting to return to work. I knew my daughter would be in safe hands with her granny, so I happily returned to my job. Today I love the balance between the intellectual challenges of my job and the sheer simple joy of playing with my daughter.
My family leaned in together, and that has made all of the difference.