When I was younger and more naive, I didn’t know that being a female engineer would be a disadvantage. Up until 3 years ago, I thought that I could get anything I want just because I’m a female. However, through my first engineering internship, I saw and experienced things that blew my mind. It’s uncomfortable to share this in a blog but it came to my attention that I am keeping something important to myself. Something that should be shared to the young women engineers in the world who might be in the same situation. This will be a serious blog that will discuss harassment towards women in the construction and engineering industry.
It can’t get anymore dehumanizing
If you read my blog, you’ll know that I don’t believe in gender equality and that men and women will never be treated the same way physically. But in this blog I’ll have to contradict myself a little bit. I think it’s better to give you a little bit of background about myself before I delve into this topic.
To me being a strong woman is being able to withstand all things thrown at me. I was taught at a young age that as a woman I must expect the inequalities so you just have to deal with it. This helped me with school and in relationships. If there were times where I felt my pride was hurt, it just meant I was weak minded. It just meant I had to try harder if I was not meeting expectations. To be blunt I just want to be a person with thick skin.
One, two, and way too many eye opening experiences
First, I want to share an example of when I experienced harassment and one very specific experience that a friend had shared with me that pushed me to make this post.
When I started working for my first internship, I worked with one engineer very closely. All my projects were his and he gave me a lot of work. We would spend at least an hour a day to discuss the projects. I felt like I learned a lot from this person and I was really thankful for his knowledge, advice and support. Until we took a group pictures he placed his hand right at my waist and he slid his hands down to my ass. After the photo, I stepped out and acted like nothing had happened. I began acting indifferent to this person and took on projects of another engineer to busy myself. He seemed to notice this and whenever it was mandatory for us to work together he would raise his voice at me and yelled. It was bad enough that my fellow intern pointed out the change in attitude between us. Eventually, I quit this internship and moved on to a place that I felt supported and safe. My mistake here was that I didn’t do anything about this, I thought that if I shared this to upper management I would get turned away. This person was very close to my HR rep and I thought that I could get fired for sharing. I thought that she would support her friend and not me. I kept this to myself and have always thought that sharing it wouldn’t help me anyway.
Sharing your story
The reasons for sharing this is because recently, a friend shared to me her harassment story. Another reason that pushed me to share is with support from my very own supervisor at my current work place. He said to me very candidly that if harassment were to happen to me, I would go along with it and not say one peep. This hit me so hard because that’s exactly me. He told me that the way to handle such a situation was to voice it and with that I felt like I had a voice. I learned that I’m not the only person that went through something so unfair.
Have a support system
This is why I think it is so important to have a really good support system when it comes to this situation! In a male dominating community, it’s important to have a voice. If not, have someone that can be your voice. The cool thing that I’ve learned is that women in engineering stick together, we don’t have as much beef compared to any other field. So when you see that lady boss in the office, just know that there’s no harm in making a good friend at the work place.
The last problem that I always hear is that we worry about our reputation when it comes to reporting a work place harassment. This could lead to a pay cut, suspension and termination. We all know the engineering community is extremely small. I always hear, “don’t cut ties, it will come back to you.” This one is something I’m still inexperienced in. I don’t really know the solution to this. And that sucks!
I’m not the only one!
Next, I want to share my friend’s story.
We had both went through harassment but the story that I will share was brutal and extremely disturbing. When my friend had started working at her engineering internship, she was harassed for showing her abilities at first. She was working on a simple excel sheet and had an efficient way to improve excel sheet. When she bought this up to her supervisor, they gave her an impression that she was overstepping them and refused to hear her idea. This is the first sign to walk away. I feel that this is very typical about a male dominated field, the male gets offended if he is outdone by a woman. They say that pride is the worst of them all and the male sex has the most pride. My friend was looked down upon in meetings, she recounts a time when she made a presentation and the client made a comment on her credentials. To make it worse, her supervisor did not back her. This is the second sign to walk away from the company. The third sign was my friend’s breaking straw. The breaking point was terrifying and disturbing. She recounts being in the restroom when a male coworker tried lock her in the restroom. Fortunately, my friend knew how to defend herself and was able to escape. After this occurred, she walked away from the company without saying one word to anyone.
Let’s get a discussion going
So many stories like this have occurred but many women have decided that it was not worth it to stand up to because we are afraid. As for me, I don’t eve know what the steps are to getting help. The only real answer is to walk away. But it shouldn’t be like this and women need a voice! Let me know how you all deal with this below, let’s get this discussion going to help other women out there!