Sunday, March 9, 2014

International Women's Day

So a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, who works for another company out here on our job site, asked me if I would be the keynote speaker at their company's International Women's Day luncheon they were planning to hold on March 6th (actual IWD is March 8th...but that was a Saturday).

His story is that some of the ladies recommended me...but the truth of it is that I was probably deemed the easiest to talk into doing it.  Kind of like Mikey with the Life cereal.  Anyway, I was told that Classic on Noble would probably be catering it, and that there would be bread pudding.  It is a well known fact that I could be led off of a cliff with Classic's bread I agreed. (As it turns out, McCallister's catered...and although the food was tasty enough, it was no Classic bread pudding.  I was LIED TO.)
(No, Robie, I will not let it go.)

A-hem...anyway...when I sat down to write myself some talking points, I came away realizing how much things have changed in just the time I have been in the workplace.

My first "real" job was in 1989 when I was still in college, but already had my associate's degree and was able to work as a designer/drafter.  I completed my Bachelor's in 1993 and started for-real working as a bona fide engineer.  Somehow, I landed my first job as a Mechanical engineer in the foundry/steel industry.  If I had TRIED to find a more male-centric, good-ole-boy atmosphere, I couldn't had done it on a bet.

I will never forget the first American Foundry Society golf tournament I attended.  I worked for Vulcan Engineering at the time and our president was acting president that year for we were hosting the tournament.  I was helping out at the hospitality tent.  As the afternoon wore on, and the beer flowed, an older gentleman sauntered over to me and introduced himself to me as one of the retired AFS presidents...and he told me, "You know, back in my day, the only way you'd've been allowed in here is if you were gonna jump out of a cake for us."

And I think he meant that as a compliment...'cause back then I WAS quite the cute young thing.  I kind of wanted to go into something similar to the Dr. Evil rant ("I didn't attend 4 years of evil medical school to be called a Mr.") but refrained.  Instead I just smiled and poured the old codger another beer, and gave him a free Vulcan engineering key fob.  You pick your battles, and I wasn't like I was going to ever be working with this guy.

Now, 20-25 years later, I can't IMAGINE anyone saying something like that to me...partially, 'cause I no longer look like anything that anybody wants to see jumping out of a cake...but also because I don't see much of that kind of attitude anymore.  I am surrounded by strong, assertive, and immensely capable professional women every day at my job.  My senior Division manager is a woman. Half of my own staff are women.  And there isn't a single person of the male persuasion that I know that doesn't respect them.  Maybe that isn't the case everywhere....I'm sure there are still pockets of resistance out there...and I'm sure some industries are harder than others for women to work in...

But I work in a VERY engineering/tech heavy industry (the Chem Demil program....we're destroying WW II era chemical weapons in accordance with international treaty)  and a very fair share of the subject matter experts I work with are women.  I once heard one of the site project managers talking about the workforce at our work site in Alabama... he said, "The guys there are some of the strongest, most capable people in the program......they have to be, the women there kill and eat the weak ones."

We've come a long way, baby.

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