Cars and Tech, Engineer Chic!, women in engineering

The Smallest Girl in the Room

So as you know, I am a femal mechanical engineer. Most people think this is pretty cool, and I definitely do, but it sometimes gets really annoying having to constantly prove your right to be in the room…

Now please dont think I’m just a whiney, neo-feminist, poor-me woman in the workplace. To be honest, most of the men and women I work with are just great! My team mates respect me and my superiors have put a lot of trust in me and my capabilities. But every now and then, you get one loser who insists on perpertuating the stereotype and takes us back 20 years…

Luckily, this is more and more becoming the exception, not the rule.

So whats got my panties in a twist, you may ask? Last week for instance, after an hour long meeting where a supplier (salesman, not Engineer!) painstakingly explained to a bunch of engineers some basic physics principle which showed that the equipment he was supplying wasn’t going to do what we needed it tpo under our present operating conditions. This concept was obviously one which gave him some trouble when he first tried to understand it, because he explained it about 3 times.

This was okay, but at the end of the meeting, he shook my hand to say goodbye and added in one last statement, “Rhea, I really hope you understand this. I will await your revised documents.”

I really hope you understand this??? Funny how he didn’t say this to any of the (male) design engineers in the room…only the one Client who was responsible for awarding his contract!  (Thats me by the way 🙂 ). So I was like wtf dude? But had the good sense not to say what I was thinking at the time. I just shot the mechanical design engineer a look, which was returned, equally surprised at the nerve of this guy. Well anyway, it looks as if I’ll just have to cut the dude’s order in half…(what? he himself admitted the equipment wasnt going to work that ell anyway!)

Then today, I’m talking to my petrol attendant (yes in South Africa we have people who fill our gas for us),

Me:  Please don’t over-fill my tank. Just fill until the 1st automatic tank…,

Petrol guy: Most people try and fill the tank to the brim, why do you want me to stop before its full?

EC: Its actually quite bad for your car

Petrol Guy: How I can be so sure?

EC: I’m a mechanical engineer. I know these things.

Petrol guy: So have you read it in a book or can you actually fix a real car?

EC: Huh? Dude, I can open that hood and tell you what every single component is.

Petrol guy: Sorry, I didn’t mean to undermine you, just wanted to know if you know how to fix a car…

EC: Here, take this cash. I’m in a hurry.

Wow…that one really sucked. Being undermined by the guy that fills your tank! I’d love to give some philosophical advice to all the young women in the world who aspire to be/ engineers. I’d love to tell them exactly how to react to a situation like that. But to be honest, I don’t know. Its just something we’ve gotta deal with as feisty females in this industry. I don’t think its going to change anytime soon, so all you can do really is brush it off, smile your gorgeous smile, and when you get home, crack open a bottle of red, put on some Oasis and be comforted in the knowledge that you really are that good at what you do.

If you’re interested in why you shouldn’t overfill your tank, check this out:

And one last thing (that I wish I’d said): No, I don’t know how to fix a car! I’m an Engineer, NOT a mechanic! Ha!


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