Weekly Reflection 1.30: Women in Engineering

I’ve been surrounded be the idea of women in engineering the last few weeks. Actually I’ve been bombarded.

Two weeks ago, at work: I had my first one-on-one of the year with my manager. I have a great manager. We hit it off at my interview. He’s super duper nice, and he wants to make sure we’re all happy. He’s also aware of some of his flaws and refers to stepping off his soapbox often (though he usually forgets to step off it in meetings). At this first one-on-one we talked about my goals and personal development plan for the year. It was awesome to have a candid conversation about him. But my gender came up more times than I really expected (or wanted) it to. He told me he was especially interested in my opinion because I am one of the few women in the engineering side of our company (I think they’re trying to change this which is why he wants my opinion). He also faltered when suggesting a female mentor for me (which I am totally on board with). It was just awkward. He didn’t say anything bad. But there was a part of me that wished it hadn’t come up.

Two weeks ago, at drinks with friends: Later that night Peter and I got drinks with some friends. While the guys talked about philosophy, sociology, and movies (cause that’s what they do, and I love it), us girls (ok, grammar question, is it we girls?), got to talking about work stuff. I told her about the weird conversation with my boss, and she immediately jumped on board (which I loved). After asking me how much I wanted to continue liking my job (to which I told her to just be straight with me), she asked me if my boss was expecting me to kind of play the mom role. I told her that I honestly didn’t think that that was his aim. She asked because my boss often tells me that he gets the sense that I can work with all sorts of people, including some of the more difficult guys on my team. I haven’t totally been able to get this out of my head.

Last weekend, at an improv comedy show: Peter and I decided it was time to change things up and we went to an improve show. The structure for this particular one was that five “directors” would describe scenes from their upcoming movies (which would be acted out of course) and then we (the audience) would vote for the movies we want to keep seeing. Before the directors started, they all asked for some ideas. One guy asked “What’s a typical job a woman would have?” and I whispered to Peter, “I hope someone says Engineer” and by golly, dear readers, someone did! That made everyone pretty happy. By the way, she was still the only female engineer in the movie. Her two best friends at work were admins…just saying!

This week, at work: My boss has been interviewing for a new senior level engineering position in our team this week. When I first heard about it, I thought to myself, there goes my job (I’m super confident like that). But as the week progressed and the interview came up in our team board meetings, something kind of annoying kept happening. Though they haven’t hired anyone yet, everyone in my team (all men) kept referring to whoever it would be as he or him. Never in my life have I been more tempted to yell “or she/her!” And my desire to yell that, honestly, wasn’t out of feminism.

Nothing that I have done in my life has never been because I thought to myself “I am a feminist” (even though I am, I’m not saying that I’m not). I took higher level math and science classes (as well as all classes, cause overachieving nerd) in high school because I was good at math and science. I took programming in high school because I enjoyed it (until Java happened). I went into engineering in college because I was good at math and science and based on what I knew of engineering, I thought I’d really like it. I stuck to it because I had no idea what else to go into. I took a job as an engineer at an automotive company because ten years earlier when I decided I wanted to become an engineer it was with the end goal of working at an automotive company (that’s right people, I reached my goal at age 23…then I needed to find a new goal…it’s been a struggle). Since I declared my major as a sophomore in college, the only times I’ve noticed how few women are in my classes or workplaces, is when it has been pointed out to me.

But now I can’t unnotice it. The reason being, I want to work with more women. I have always had a close group of strong female friends. In high school they was the amazing girls that pushed me to be a nerdy overachiever. All of us went on to top colleges in the country. Most of us are still figuring out our dreams. We were that group of girls that decided to just forego prom dates and go as a group of friends (even though almost all of us ended up getting asked). In college, I had my sorority sisters. Women in a variety of majors with a lot of different interests, but I met some of my best friends in that house. I still turn to them for advice and encouragement. But honestly, since going into my professional career, I haven’t made a strong group of female friends. And then I realized, of all my best female friends, a teeny tiny percentage, miniscule really, were engineers. And for the most part, I love that. The only time I really hate that is when I’m at work. And I wish so badly that when I came into the office I had one other woman that sat by me that I could talk to.

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