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April 2022 Women’s Feature

Everyone might know this star from MythBusters but, today we are going to share her story on what she did to get to where she is today. Everyone say hello to Tamara Robertson! Her story started in her family’s garage being Daddy’s little helper. He could tell she had a knack for things that were bigger than her. She loved testing her skills and loved putting pieces together to make something so large and powerful. Her dad then began to teach her how to critically think and the skills of the trades. She then shares:

While my dad showed me I belonged in the shop my peers had a different view of what a girl was capable of – a bias which continued to be echoed in shops, STEM classrooms and corporate offices throughout my life.  I was lucky that I grew up the child of not 1 but 2 Marines and while my dad taught me the tangible skills my mom and godmother (both female marines in the 80s) taught me the tenacity and grit it took to stand my own in spaces that were “not meant for women” and forge the path for the next generation.  To say that meant that I did just that as a kid would be a lie – I used the tenacity and grit but in a more “small town friendly way”.  In fact the bullying was so bad that I was accused of trying to be a boy because I loved cars, sports and building so much that I ran full speed the opposite way, becoming a competitive cheerleader and keeping my love of cars and building as a thing for home with dad.”

Having to hide who you truly are, you tend to get lost along the way. Thankfully in Tamara’s case she had people not only behind her cheering her on but, she had mentors like her Calculus Teacher. Her teacher saw first hand Tamara’s skills and recommended her to check out the engineering program. Everything after that was history. She got her dream job as an Engineer in corporate America and advanced. On her way up she took all of the young women Engineers with her. She took part in the women leadership programs and mentored up and coming STEM students. By The young age of 28, working for a Houston based company launching a global division, she wanted to bring more women up with her and realized there wasn’t anymore to lift up. Which inspired Tamara in a different light, she shares:

“The Critical Thinker in me started to examine the lack of women in not just our organization but Shop Floors and Engineering as a whole.  I started to see the exodus in early career, the dropout rate before graduation, the shifting into different majors, the low enrollment rate into STEM programs, the lack of presence in STEM clubs and shops.  See it turns out that there wasn’t a singular stage gate stoppage causing this blight – the lack of women in STEM was a pipeline issue and there were a lot of points of divergence.  So in 2015 I walked around from the “Dream Job” as a corporate engineer and started volunteering everywhere I could to try to get more young women interested in STEM and to start normalizing the presence of women in Shop Floor environments“.

She continues “It’s an ongoing mission and I talk to female makers and STEM professionals as well as students everyday about their experiences.  I wish I could say that young girls in the new generation have it completely different but the struggle continues albeit now with the addition of Allies and Advocates who are hoping to transform those spaces for their daughters, sisters, wives, etc.  I amplify the voices and inspiring work of the marginalized in Shop and STEM fields on my “Tinkering Belles” Maker Podcast , in my “Seekers of Science” Outreach comic and through the work I do with “Maker Science” in collaboration with Midnight Science Club.”

Tamara’s story is what American Rotary’s  2022 Women’s Campaign is all about. There are so many stories of women in these industries that get scared and pushed off because of what people say. If it wasn’t for the supportive people in Tamara’s life, her own determination, and the passion she has for her field of work she wouldn’t have been the star we all know of today. Let her story inspire you to never silence your dreams and when put down – always make sure to get back up.

Check out more of Tamara’s story on our YouTube Channel and Instagram