Friday, February 17, 2012

Working in the Male Environment

Ladies, I'm sure you are used to spending countless hours in classrooms, computer rooms, labs, and a good portion of doing homework being around guys. Let's face it - engineering is a male dominated major. However, that's what makes us awesome as women for "fighting the system" and showing the guys we are just as good if not better. Unfortunately, it's something you will probably need to get used to, as being an engineer means you will be working in a male environment.

I work as a nuclear licensing engineer at a nuclear power plant, and on a daily basis have interacted with two other female engineers. It is not common to have women around in such complicated environments. Multiple times people have been surprised in meeting me at conference calls and in person, assuming that my name was "Daniel" instead of "Danielle", or mistaking me as a new secretary. These mistakes are small things I let roll off my shoulders, and use them instead to motivate myself to be recognized. In allowing my motivation and strengths show, I've been recognized for my work more so that some others. After being at this job for still under two months, I am now the lead project engineer on a high priority project, and will be defined as the site expert on the subject in a few months. I've realized that the men can look down on me or treat me different for being female all they want, but it hasn't stopped me from furthering myself more in two months than they have.

I've come to realize it is important to build a thick skin against these things if you want to be able to succeed in this type of working environment. Sure, you will be oogled at my men (I mean, it is their nature and sometimes it just happens) but it doesn't mean that they are going to go all creepo and harass you. Sometimes these guys are so used to being around guys all the time they forget to censor some comments they make when women are present. You don't need to be one of the guys, and you definitely shouldn't be a vixen in the workplace. All you need to do is be understanding, look professional, and act in a manner that will have people give you the respect you are working for.

Some things to be cautious of though:

1. Remember that they are your coworkers. This isn't college anymore. Don't flirt with the people you work with, since usually companies have policies against dating and it never ends well. Think about it... how would you feel being stuck in a room with someone that dumped you, every day in your career?

2. Learn how to write professional emails. Every email you send is an important one, regardless of the subject. Do not use slang, curse, be rude, and always use proper punctuation and grammar. Also, don't use a big word when you can use smaller ones instead. Just because you know what fission or thermofluids means doesn't mean they do.

3. Never ever throw your coworkers "under the bus" so to say. You will be in an office with them, and you will need their help over time, so don't burn your own bridges.

And most importantly, as long as you dedicate yourself to your work, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.


  1. Hi everybody!

    Nice blog you guys have over here.
    I don't know about your experience, but I wouldn't think of everything as offensive. Engineering is dominated by men (in my first semester of mechanical/aerospace engineering we were around 1000 students, about 100-200 women), and of course people will be surprised to see a young woman as the lead project engineer ;)
    I'd take it as a compliment, not an offense

    1. I think that was the point of Ms. Fogg's post. She was explaining her experience in this type of environment, and how it can be a good thing. She wasn't offended through this interaction, and took it as a way to build up her self-esteem.

    2. Serena is correct. I don't take anything here as offensive. I actually really enjoy what I do here.

      As for the surprise I get, I've shown up to many meetings and conferences where everyone assumed my name was "Daniel" instead of "Danielle" until I start the introductions. The only women I've seen here are extremely independent and strong willed women, and I strive to be like them one day.