Tag Archives: engineering

it’s me, the director

I’m in my 50s and was in a meeting with a male colleague and a client. We’d be working with them a month or so. The client’s representative, a one-man-band contractor, not only did not realise I was the engineering director, but was stunned to silence when repeatedly told by my colleague that I was. One of the most insulting moments in my long career. The sooner the old boys club retires, the better.

Mansplaining in engineering

At one point during a meeting, I said, to a male client about 10 years older than me but with 25 years less experience in a subject area where I am an international expert in my field, “you know, I’ve been working with these (technical item) for 30 years. I know what I am doing. Please listen to me”. And he still continued to mansplain at me. The most annoying thing is that the older and wiser and more experienced I get, the more I experience this mansplaining phenomenon…

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.

Jolene

Arrive on site to fix something the on site maintainer can’t fix On site Maintainer: “Please don’t fix it, I will never live it down that a girl came to fix my kit when I couldn’t” Me *Feels sorry for him and invents complex defect that only a OEM will find*

Jolene

Despite working on the project for over 8 months one of the design engineers thought I was a cleaner and contested every design fault I raised. He only started taking the issues seriously when the customer started complaining about the same issues I had raised by this time of course it was too late.

Jolene

Despite working for a huge global engineering company. My request for a ladies fit Hi-Vis jacket was declined due to the fact that no Ladies fit Items were on the list of approved PPE items.

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.

Vanessa

A while ago my boyfriend and I were at my house along with some of my family, and we were talking about some appliance or something that could be improved upon. (Context: my boyfriend and I go to an engineering school, although he doesn’t actually study engineering, he studies math, while I DO study engineering). One of my aunts looked at my boyfriend and said “maybe you could fix this!” It completely shocked me, and I don’t think anyone else even noticed. This was literally the first time she had ever talked to my boyfriend, and she assumed he would be the one to fix something. She’s my aunt, she’s known me her whole life, and most importantly, *I* am the engineer. I study and work on the practical applications of math, physics, and chemistry, while my boyfriend studies math theory. It’s things like this that make me doubt whether I could ever be a good engineer.