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Alexia Barrette-Flake with icons in her field of work


Lane Scholar and biology and theatre double-major Alexia Barrett-Flake ’15 began her career as an industrial engineer at AGY collecting and organizing data for use in key decisions regarding continuous improvement projects. She maintained and developed purchase acceptance standards and packaging bill of materials, and developed cost models and process writing for staff justification and training. She was also in charge of AGY’s internship program which required recruiting, screening, selecting, and managing candidates. She says she faced struggles being a woman in the field of engineering and that some men refused to see the value of having a woman in her position. Luckily her peers and superiors were always on her side. Because she did not have an engineering degree and no prior experience in the field, she had more trouble overcoming her own imposter syndrome and earning the respect of others.

“I had issues connecting with some of the men I worked with. I did get comments from some of the older men but I did not tolerate any demeaning jokes about women. At one point I had a choice to take a situation to human resources or to deal with it myself. I found the best strategy for me was to stare at them and say I didn’t understand the joke, then ask if they could explain. That strategy nipped many of them in the bud.”

Alexia says there are more men than women in the field of industrial engineering, but she believes that is changing. Her advice to young women interested in a male-dominated field is to learn, listen, and speak up. “Learn from everyone, not just the managers or your peers. Learn from other departments, learn from the ‘old timers’, and learn from the people you are managing. Look for the women who have been through it all already; they will be your friends and mentors. Find your people and be yourself. If someone makes you uncomfortable, call them out. You have more allies than you think. And lastly, do not be afraid to be labeled as ‘difficult’ because if I learned anything, ‘difficult’ is just a euphemism to replace another word and avoid a trip to HR.”

The foundation of what Wesleyan is and stands for helped me.

Wesleyan was able to give me an education without the social expectations of being a woman hanging over my head. We were leaders and Wesleyan was a place for me to learn how to lead and be unapologetically me. I was able to take up my deserved space and I was able to voice my ideas with confidence. 

Alexia Barrett-Flake ’15

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