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Last week we got a tour of a new facility, I was with three other engineers: Rob, Mike and Chris. As usual I was the only woman.

We met Dan, who would show us around. Dan brought us into a very nice office area to meet Allen, his department director. Allen stood up and started shaking hands and each time he shook someone's hand Dan would say "And this is Rob" or whatever. After Allen shook Rob, Mike and Chris' hands, he stepped back, just as I was stepping forward because he'd kinda skipped me, despite the fact that I'd been standing right between Mike and Chris. So Dan helped out and said "And also Spacefem," gesturing toward me so Allen would get the hint, and he shook my hand.

Allen explained his role and handed out business cards... to Rob, Mike, and Chris. I was apparently totally invisible. I got nothing. At that point I didn't care, after the hand shaking weirdness and now this, I did not want Allen's business card.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but it's not. Maybe it's because engineers are socially inept, maybe it's because of the sad fact that because of numbers, there really are about the same number of women who are secretaries or admin assistants in engineering departments as there are women engineers.

But the great thing is that after the business cards were out, I looked around and caught Mike staring at me, giving me this indignant "can you believe that asshole!" sort of look. I smiled, he rolled his eyes and shook his head, we all moved on.

And then I felt like it was worth it because I got this win - I'm in a new department, I don't know anyone very well. But now I know Mike is on my side.

That's something else that actually happens all the time.

For every guy who's an ignorant jerk, who can't imagine that a woman would be able to ask an intelligent question about an airplane, you'll find allies. Sometimes one, often two!

And these weird stupid off incidents help you find those allies. You suddenly know exactly who you can trust - and even better, you now know an engineer who is smart and notices things about people. You keep that in your hip pocket for team building, forever, because many engineers do not have those people skills. And that's where being a woman gives me an advantage: I get a front row seat to see this litmus test, over and over again.

Always look for the bright spots, and don't let the haters get you down.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
aliki
Oct. 26th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC)
It's great to have people on your side! Mike sounds awesome.
tigergladys
Oct. 26th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
The same thing happens to me, in IT, and finding allies is the best part.
nanikore
Oct. 28th, 2014 08:43 am (UTC)
Ugh. If Allen does that over here in Silicon Valley his @$$ would be grass.

There are women CEOs, VPs, directors plus tons of engineers here...

Men are a minority in the design team I'm in.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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