Saturday, June 6, 2009

*Women in Civil Engineering*

Hi all,

Hope all are well. I know scorching summer heat is horrible these days, take good care and keep good health.
“Drink lots n lots of Water and eat an Apple everyday” Make this your Mantra and you will be fit and fine! – Health Guru :)
I want all my readers to be miles away from Summer sicknesses. (I sound selfish right? Can’t help it though ;))

Anyways, my topic doesn’t relate to the above mentioned tips. Something that has been in mind for about 4 years and now that I have got a place to write my thoughts, I wanted to vent it out. Here it goes.
Before I dive into the actual topic, let me clarify something. The above picture is captioned as "WORLD WITHOUT CIVIL ENGINEERS".
Civil Engineering is one of the very oldest engineering disciplines as we all know. It took shape sometime before 2000BC and proofs are the ancient constructions around the world which stand proud as the heritage symbols even today. It keeps going if l have to fill this space about Civil Engineering. Being in this profession, I will love to write more on this vast and versatile discipline. Again being a women, in this field, I have something else to type down.
Women, especially in our country weren’t allowed to utilize their technical talent until recent years. Engineering particularly remained a ball in boys club. It has been considered an inappropriate job for women. Perhaps, the wrong perceptions like women cannot be strong as men or cultural barriers put them away from this field. Throwing the realities in the back seat, women also started believing the myths. Even today, in India, women think this is not their kind of work. Not many opportunities knock the doors of those women, who at least gave a shot. So, it stopped many other aspiring women to go further.

Starting at home, it was believed that “Good girls” are those who choose a traditional career but not a challenging one. Apparently, Engineering has become challenging for women since it wasn’t chosen by many women. At study place, women are not given hard tasks as men in the laboratories, as they think its sign of respect or kindness towards the myth that women are weaker sex. Here starts the actual trouble. It might be true to some extent that women aren’t stronger as men physically but definitely are very strong mentally. This kind of profession needs more confidence and knowledge which actually doesn’t vary with gender. I don’t want to say its gender domination but it happens becuase of some cultural beliefs that were imbibed in us from ages.

After graduation, very few women incline towards pursuing career in core engineering field. Family influence is one reason which barricades further steps towards this career. Not all parents encourage opting for a nontraditional profession. I came across many experiences where Engineering seemed more of guy’s kind of work.

I should say it was my family who encouraged me to get into a different profession. My Dad though not an engineer, was very much interested in Civil engineering and so he wanted me to pursue. With no serious plans, and ideas I stepped in, rolled along the 4 year undergraduate path. It was just before I finished with my undergraduate course, I got a feel to stick on to this field. That’s the four year magic! A stubborn female by nature, I never wanted to change my field for any damn reason. May be that is what made me stand like what I am now. There were hurdles in the journey, but I guess I tried my best.
I could recollect one such incident, which really made me more stubborn and determined. There was an interview that I attended with my other female friends. There was an interview panel of some 7 members. One out of the 7 tried to be cynical with female interviewees, because that company never wanted women in their construction crew but just invited to show a bigger number of aspirants. Couple of the 7, tried to be sincere saying No females before the interview and some tried to spin time giving some hard nuts to crack. The Man mentioned before seemed like he might have accidently slipped into this panel, because I felt strongly that he was a jungle refugee ;).
Just before my interview we got to know from one of the females, that he was trying to be too cynical with female aspirants asking some completely unrelated questions and at the end used his tongue to dance on giving a free advice in his native slang to “go get married”. The girl who went before me, almost yelled at him and walked out. It was the same story, when I took the seat. I thought I should also dare and so I said to him, “you better get divorced because you don’t deserve a wife” when he asked me "go get married". After me, one by one all the female aspirants walked out knowing this. Now, that company has one of top position in the Construction market. I wonder how can such company chose some funny ill-mannered fellows who do not even know how to speak…to be at adorable places n also how can they invite people if they really don’t want them on board…I thought this generally happens only in our movies( I don’t want to write the company’s name). If that interviewer happens to read this, I am sure he will remember me. I wanted to say him that, I have been working in the same profession without even knowing answers to his dumb questions. I am also curious to know if he was sent back to the place where he actually belongs ;).
I wouldn’t say this is the prevailing scenario even today, but even today, there are such places where women are not properly treated though they have the same qualification as men. I am not speaking as a feminine activist, or male protestant. It was all out of my experience. Civil engineering is not lonely profession, Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical Engineering professions are also sailing in the same boat where women have very few seats to occupy.
I used to have different opinions on these professions before I got into this. In fact, I was not very confident in the beginning. A Graduate degree boosted my confidence levels to a great extent and of course the last but not least to commend is this land of opportunities. Without an opportunity I wouldn’t be able to type down so many lines like this. It is a known fact that females work better in a group and so team work is a female preference. Similarly, I also have had this preference. Slowly I overcame such preferences and gained confidence. Though I had few female co students at Grad school, many slipped out of this field. Even at work place and professional meetings, I find very few women.

Working in such an advanced country, I still face questions like, “how come you found this option?”, “don’t you think it’s challenging?”, “is it really your kind of work?” some being humorous like “can u bear the hard hat on your head?” and “your heels are made to walk in the office, not to get dirty?” it goes on like this every time I take a site visit. I never thought it was a hard task, except for being lonely women among so many male folks for most of the time. Still it makes me happy that no matter what I am hanging on with the same profession with no regrets. :)

Finally I would like to say something to all those females who are stepping this path/ who change their professions misled by wrong perceptions….Civil Engineering is not as hard task as it is believed to be, it is more real, existing and exciting. Challenge is everywhere. Here, you see your applied knowledge and hard work living, surviving, being useful and being rewarded. By blind following the myths, never miss the opportunity to leave an impression of yours!