Caeley Looney is a dog mom, an aerospace engineer, and the founder / Editor in Chief of Reinvented Magazine, a publication that highlights powerful women in STEM. She makes a point to emphasize their professional accomplishments as well as to celebrate who they are outside of work. Her goal is to educate young girls that it’s possible to pursue their dreams without losing self-identity in the process.
“Our goal is to normalize women in STEM—to not only be sure there are more women in the room but to also be sure women can be themselves within that room.”
Long Live Print
Reinvented Magazine came from an idea after Caeley graduated college in 2018, as she was looking at a copy of Seventeen Magazine. She realized that she could no longer relate to this magazine. Caeley wanted to read something that better suited her interests.
“It started as a selfish thing. I’m a 23-year-old female and I like to read my magazines while taking a bath and having a drink of wine. I didn’t have that anymore. This started as a project so I’d have something for that.”
From there, she built a team to help her create a print magazine—specifically print so that it could reach areas where girls may not have access to the technology they’d need to read online. It continued to grow into something that was creating role models for girls who may have otherwise never been exposed to these dreams. It began to normalize these paths. These girls were now able to see themselves in the pages of this magazine. Shortly after it was published, she gained the support of teachers, parents, school counselors, and non-profits.
“[Our readers] are fighting for their right to wear what they want to wear and to be who they want to be, while also being a scientist. This is showing these girls that this is what you can grow up into.”
Caeley also started Reinvented’s One-for-One Program, where for each magazine purchased, one is donated to a girl in an area that doesn’t typically have access to STEM resources. The stories it contains, she hopes Reinvented Magazine will show girls everywhere that this path is possible, no matter what resources are available to them.
Importance of Mental Health
“I had professors who outright told me that I was not cut out to be an aerospace engineer. When you hear that stuff, it’s so easy to start believing it.”
Through college, Caeley felt out of place in her aerospace track. It wasn’t simply an internal feeling or even indecision as to whether she was interested in the topic. She knew what she wanted to do, and she knew she was passionate about it. This feeling stemmed from the stigma perpetuating around women in the field, surrounded by male peers who said things such as “The only way to survive in [this] school is to put a ring on [your] finger and keep it there.”
These feelings compounded and took a toll on Caeley. Depression drove her to take a semester off of school, to reevaluate her mental health away from campus. In hindsight, Caeley acknowledges this was partially driven by her imposter syndrome, but unfortunately, she didn’t know that at the time. Had there been school resources and support necessary to recognize her symptoms back then, she acknowledges this feeling could have been identified earlier.
“I don’t think we need to eliminate imposter syndrome entirely, because I think it can be fuel for the fire. Once you do acknowledge that’s what’s happening, it makes you want to fight harder. Normalizing that term and making it more well-known and to have those resources to help is more important than telling people to fight or to get over it.”
This feeling amplified when she entered the workplace. Many of her male coworkers were given higher ranking titles than her female coworkers despite having similar levels of expertise and backgrounds. While they were all doing the same thing and were even hired at the same time, women kept their original titles with lower salary ranges even though the work they were actually doing had nothing to do with their job title.
“Even if it’s not outwardly saying ‘you don’t belong here’, it doesn’t really make you feel like you belong there.”
Luckily, she found a connection with one of her managers and felt comfortable enough to address this with him. It was through this conversation that she advanced from Integration and Test Engineer to Systems Engineer.
“It worked out in the end, but I can’t say that it worked out for everyone. It’s really great when you have people at your company who are fighting for you, but I definitely did not experience that during my first year.”
Create Your Own Stereotype
The advice Caeley has for girls who want to pursue a career in STEM is the same as the title of this article—be unapologetically yourself. Do not lose yourself in your title or in what you think women in STEM should look like.
“Don’t be afraid to be in a room with all men and wear your bright colors. Don’t feel like you have to wear heels to every big meeting. I don’t. I wear my NASA style slip-ons to all of my big events. Don’t give in to giving up anything about yourself just because you want to fit the stereotype of women in STEM because that’s just not what a woman in STEM looks like.”
Dreams for Reinvented Magazine
While Reinvented Magazine is currently published quarterly, Caeley would love to release it more regularly.
“I think the world of women in STEM changes quickly and having quarterly issues may not be as beneficial as something that comes out on a monthly basis. I’d like that constant reminder that women belong.”
She also hopes to expand the magazine to include more stories, as well as bring her message to life through conferences and workshops.