Why do we limit girls?
Why do we limit girls?
When I was 17 I went to enrol into Engineering at uni. I was met by a Professor who refused to enrol me into his subject stating “Women don’t succeed in this field. I wont enrol you. Go away and do something else”.
At uni I was the only girl in my course. The curricula was crafted with over-use of masculine stereotypes and examples I couldn’t relate to, I was overlooked when I raised my hand, and studied alone in my car while others had working groups in the library, because my presence and friendliness was confused with awkwardness or romantic interest. I learnt to dress down and shrink myself to get through without being hassled.
When I graduated and started looking for Grad work in Mining and in Power Companies, despite my HD performance, Scholarships and State Awards, I was told “You are not what we are looking for” and challenged on my willingness to work rurally despite having grown up in central Australia.
When I started in the Building industry my salary was $1000 less than the male grads. After 1 year I had been given less mentoring, less training, less responsibility, and less opportunity for small projects (which was again reflected in the pay rises handed out to the boys, but not me). I soon discovered that I had to approach things differently. I had to be assertive to be given half the opportunities, but not too assertive that I made my managers feel awkward. The techniques the males used wouldn’t cut it for me. A assertive guy who requested opportunities was seen as a “Leader”, an assertive women was labelled “Bossy”. There was a delicate manner in which I had to learn to conduct myself that sat somewhere in the zone of “little sister” or “daughter figure”. As a result I was sometimes met with with warmth, but also hostility, labelled bossy, encountered sexual harassment, and felt ostracised in my day to day existence in the office. Even when working as an electrical engineer in South America with more industry experience and qualifications than the team, I was addressed as “niña” (girl) while the men were introduced as “Engineer [Insert Spanish Name Here]”.
After putting in 50% more effort to get HALF as much recognition, watching grads walk in the door and move straight into opportunities I had been requesting for 6 years, in addition to my investment of 7 years of study (2x Bachelor Degrees + Masters (Scholarship)), I grew tired of the uphill battle -as the fruits did not seem worth the effort and there was no end in sight. I sacrificed my 20’s to my career and had little to show for myself.
This culture has to change: at home, at school, at uni, and at work. I am tired of being told that I am not capable, not competent, not able to because I am female. It is not enough to achieve high academic results, it is not enough to open doors to women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) degrees, it is not enough to make an effort to employ more women in these industries-if the language, attitudes, and culture refuses to change.
This has to start with us- We need to stop boxing girls in, we need to stop using the term “like a girl” as if it is a bad thing and replace it with words of empowerment.
The video link below pulls at my heart strings with undertones of familiarity.