engineer

Scientist / Engineer

While I was at University, a colleague from my sponsor company, in a superior postion to me, tried to rape me while on a work trip. I said no, he didn’t hear me, I said this is a bad idea, he told me he couldn’t have kids, that it was fine, I said about his wife, he said it’s fine. I couldn’t get away but fortunately for me, my fight response kicked in, I punched him and swore and kicked and yelled and felt so angry and violated and how dare this person try to take something from me without my permission, I wanted to kill. I was very lucky, someone heard me yelling which meant the person had to leave and couldn’t do anything else. I had a fight response out of fight, flight, or freeze (you don’t get a choice it just happens). Both of us had been drinking when this happened, that doesn’t make it okay and it does not stop it from being attempted rape. I said no, they heard and didn’t care, continued acting for what they wanted anyway. When I talked to my friends about it, most of them told me to go to the police to get the bastard. Enough of my male engineering friends/ colleagues that I talked to said, what was I playing at, I could hurt this guy’s career; he could lose his job just because I couldn’t make my mind up; that I needed to get my act together; no one will believe you anyway; it’s your fault, stop being such a little bitch. Now, I know they were wrong. At the time having been immersed in the sexist, derogatory, backwards culture I believed at least some of what they said. I didn’t report it, I told very few people after that and I essentially had a year of battling between trying not to feel anything and trying not to kill myself because the anti-depressants I started taking damn near made me do it. I pulled my shit together, what the nice counsellor I saw several years after, as the mental health support in the UK is wank, told me is called post traumatic growth and have my docotorate and a successful career in STEM. My attempted rape was less than 5 years ago, I still experience sexist shit most days. Engineering is one of the worst sectors for it and if you’re not willing to keep your head down and let the toxic culture be, then prepare for it to be all the worse. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting! I probably did experience sexism and microaggressions when I was at school, I seem to remember being called a dyke and fat and remarks about my large boobs, but it didn’t really bother me, because I was very lucky that my parents had raised me to believe that I was amazing and it was my body, my rules – no one else got to make me feel bad about it. Unfortunately, when I moved to University and then into work I had a very different experience. I was in a far less liberal part of the UK and most of the compliments I received were along the lines of: that’s a good set of tits to get you in here; lucky you’re not like us, cis white men are the new underprivileged; ah, you’re just like one of the lads really; to name a few. With this culture change I began to slip into habits that I would now say threw my own gender under the bus for the sake of belonging. I thought I really felt I belonged that I could be myself completely, until university or work socials happened and I experienced sexual harrassment multiple times, mainly in the form of bum pinching and groping, colleagues would try and get me to have sex with them and when I didn’t want to they’d try to persuade me and keep touching me, cornering me instead of letting me walk off. Through all of these experiences I began to believe what was spouted back by the group of male colleagues that I talked to, ah you had one too many; ah they had one too many; no harm done; nah it’s not weird, just blowing off steam; god, you’re slutty; lads lads lads. It just became part of the status quo. When at university the gropers included staff, at least one of whom had a wife and children. When I outline it like this it sounds obvious, in your face, but it wasn’t. It was insidious, subtle and daily and it was the culture that likely made that attemped rape possible, it definitely made me so unconfident in the system that I couldn’t report it until almost 2 years later. When I did, no one wanted to know.

Helen

I was conducting exactly the same role as my male colleague, I was called an Assistant Civil Engineer and he was called a Civil Engineer. I assisted nobody and worked in the absence of a Team Leader and Head of Department for over 6 months. When a position for Civil Engineer came up, the Engineering Manager came to me and suggested if I knew anyone who might be interested, I should encourage them to apply. I considered this and decided to apply myself. Between the application and the interviews, I had my annual appraisal with the same Engineering Manager, who praised all my work, rated me as “exceeds expectations” and said how pleased he was that I had applied for the position of Civil Engineer. He also stated “your interview day will be a very good day”. I went to the interview just a week or two later and it appeared to go well. Almost a month after the interview I got called into his office and told I had been unsuccessful in my application. I was a little confused and asked if there was a better candidate, they said no, they had not filled the position and were readvertising. I asked why I hadn’t been successful and was told “you are not a chartered engineer”, I queried this at the time as this had not been a requirement in the job advert and none of my male colleagues were chartered in the Civil Engineer role. The Engineering Manager changed his response and said, “oh I meant you haven’t got good enough qualifications”. Again, I was confused and pointed out that couldn’t possibly be the reason because again, I had a 1st Class Masters Degree and all my male colleagues merely had Bachelors Degrees. The Engineering Manager then responded by saying “what I actually meant was you don’t have enough experience”. At this point I was really questioning the whole exchange and left his office. I continued to question this rationale with colleagues (including those male Civik Engineers) and none could understand this as I had collectively a decade of experience and was undertaking the same number and value and complexity of projects that they were and was mentoring an Apprentice through her qualification. I then got invited by HR to a meeting “to discuss your job description”. I prepared for the meeting by printing copies of the job descriptions for Assistant Civil Engineer, Civik Engineer and Senior Civil Engineer. I collated evidence of my work for each of the points of the Civil Engineer job description and tried to map out a progression path through the positions. At this point it became apparent that the job description for the Assistant Civil Engineer was far more onerous than that of the Civil Engineer and that the only difference between the Civil Engineer and Senior Civil Engineer was being Chartered. I took all this to the meeting and presented my case to the lady from HR. She listened and then said “I’m afraid I can’t discuss your job description because I didn’t write it”. Instantly I was very confused as she had invited me to the meeting with the heading “to discuss your job description”, so I said as much. She responded by saying “I wanted to discuss another matter, you smell excessively of body odour.” At this point I was flabbergasted. I have never had such a complaint raised in my life before, no mention of this was raised in my annual appraisal mere weeks before and nobody had said a word to me. She continued, saying “Don’t you have anything to say? The least you could do is thank me for telling you in private” at this point I asked to leave and returned back to my office in tears. I felt embarrassed and confused and couldn’t carry on with the day. I thought about it all weekend and booked a doctors appointment immediately to get tested to see if there was an issue I was unaware of. All results came back negative and the Doctor suggested anti-depressants instead. I decided to speak to the Engineering Manager as I felt if it were this big an issue it ought to have been raised in my annual appraisal. He responded by telling me he had noticed it and that my team had complained as well. My faith in my team plummeted and I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Eventually they began asking what was wrong and I trusted one enough to explain. He said he hadn’t said anything of the sort and he was certain nobody else had either. I decided at this point I had no choice but to leave my employment. My trust in both my management, my team and my HR department had been obliterated and it was obvious I was not going to be treated fairly by the organisation. I raised a formal grievance with my notice and the organisation responded by writing a four page letter saying they had done absolutely nothing wrong and they dismissed my grievance entirely.

CallLoggerSupreme

UPDATE – the guy from my previous post who was causing issues? Well, he was carted off by a manager for a ‘chat’, raising all our hopes that justice would be done… nope. He’s been promoted. Given a whole lucrative new project to work on that wasn’t offered to anyone else. I leave in three days.

CallLoggerSupreme

I’m a first line IT tech. I’m leaving next week and I won’t be returning to IT as a career. My confidence has been stolen from me by the men that surround me with their ‘I’m alright Jack’ mentality and lack of empathy – ‘well I don’t experience it so it doesn’t happen’ – and the huge cognitive dissonance they go through when confronted with such problems. I have also recently discovered that I am paid an entire pay-band less than the national average and two to thee bands less than my male colleagues. I’ve been introduced as ‘the receptionist’, ‘the girl on the phone’, been told that my job is ‘menial’, that I ‘just log calls and take messages’. I have been left out of meetings. My department director will leave the room if I or my one female colleague (who is permanently stressed out… and is 2nd line tech paid a band less than other 2nd line techs!!) is in and will come in and out until a male appears so he can speak to them… and then they ask me and relay my advice back to him! Myself and my one female colleague have been forced to take entry level IT qualifications – no male staff member has – despite already having equivalent certs. I was the first person in the whole department to become ITIL qualified (all my male colleagues failed the exam) yet a male in the office was chosen to research and administer our new help-desk. I am regularly praised by our end-users (via a ‘click if you’re happy’ system in email that produces reports) for my efficiency and technical ability… but my male colleagues are publicly praised in staff meetings for minor things and I am never mentioned.(Well, most end-users apart from some men who insist on speaking to a male and this is never challenged). I know if I suddenly grew a penis everything would change for me here. A temp came in to cover a leaver – male – and he has been offered training, been taken to lunch etc. I’m so done with this nightmare. They just don’t get it.

Jessica

“I told my sons, make sure your wives breastfeed and then you’ll never have to get up in the night for a crying baby” (Same man in the same conversation) “I never used to get up when my kids cried as babies… it’s what wives are for”

Vera

I work for an engineering consultancy. We are meeting a supplier for cathodic protection systems. At multiple points through the meeting a senior male colleague interrupts the supplier and, looking at me, says: “We might want to clarify some things first we have some girls in the team who might not know what corrosion is”, “Hold up, I wouldn’t use the word ‘anode’ am seeing this girl here look confused”. He blatantly only addresses this at me and not at the other people there, all male. I have a master’s degree in engineering and won awards for chemistry as a teenager. But I have a vagina so that means I am unfamiliar with bloody middle school-level physics. I bet this f*cker wouldn’t be able to draw a diagram of a galvanic cell if you put one in front of him.

Sarah

Been an engineer since 1980. Dropped out of grad school “the first time around” because my advisor tried to get into my pants. Endured through “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” and “Ron and his girl are coming over”…and the guy who grabbed my arm forcefully to make a point. What helped was our women’s group and a couple of bosses who believed in me “You’re good, and you’ll be better when you understand how good you are.” (Including said “Ron”). Did well anyway. Some of the companies where I’ve worked prided themselves in non-discrimination against women, some were fairly neutral. Went to grad school the second time because “Dr. X” clarified that I was an engineer whereas “Ms. X” could be any role. (I was talking to Dr. Z, a Hispanic women, who pointed out without the “Dr.” she was often assumed to be the hotel maid!) Still doing well, still suffering sexism (more dismissal of my ideas, and being overtalked, than harassment). I figure I’ve accomplished what I have needed to, maybe not as much as equally competent men my age, but they didn’t have the hurdles I had–they had bosses and coworkers and clients who believed in them and gave them progressive roles without them having to ask. They were considered management material and guided into it whereas I was considered “not management material” and shuffled aside. So now I’m into being competent, being thorough, doing what I’d promised I’d do, and enjoying my non-work life as much as I can. What are they going to do, fire me? I’ve got enough money to retire now, I just choose not to. I ask for what I want, tell what I’m thinking, and only rarely get nightmares about them coming after me with guns. 🙁 I hope the younger women have it easier. It’d be nice if they recognized it was harder for me, but since their male colleagues don’t have to recognize that, I wouldn’t want to burden the women.