Wednesday, March 2, 2016

my name isn't daniel.

"Dear Daniel" - or, my personal favorite when I answer the phone, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm looking for Daniel?"

You'd probably be surprised by how many times I've been contacted in response to a work-related email I send (where my name--my actual feminine name--is in the signature line) by a man looking for the Daniel that initially contacted him.

Except I am not a man. Sure, I love science. I also happen to be an engineer. Who would've thought a female could possibly be an engineer? (Not Trump, that's for sure.)

Most of the time it is an honest, albeit careless--my name is RIGHT THERE--mistake. It's no fault of the person contacting me. But it is certainly indicative of a much larger problem in the United States, where only approximately 18-20% of engineering undergraduates are female.

And don't even get me started on the sexism for those of us already within the field. Don't believe me? Just do a Google image search for 'female engineer meme.' Take in what you see. Then do your best to find a female engineer and ask her about her experiences. And just listen.

Do you know how many times I've said something to my male colleagues that fell on deaf ears, only for a male counterpart to suggest the same damn idea and receive praises a week later?

Do you know the way I was lectured because I had a young child who was sick and his dad had an exam at school that he couldn't miss, so I had to leave work to tend to him? Even though I had male colleagues who came in late all the freaking time and never once got reprimanded?

Did I mention that I had to take my entire maternity leave with Elden completely unpaid? And with Jon on a part-time Men's Wearhouse salary that meant I had to make sure I was back at work 6 weeks after the delivery of my son, despite the fact that I still felt like I had been hit by a truck?

Do you know how many times I've been told to "calm down"* when I started to raise my voice simply because I was excited about an idea or frustrated with a situation even though I've had peers get physically angry (throwing or slamming things) and management looked the other way?

You know what the worst part is? My experiences aren't the worst parts. I have female friends who are also in the engineering field who have shared stories of sexual harassment aimed at them (I've luckily never been on the receiving end of this, although I have been subjected to an upper level male manager at a former company of mine discussing the 'awesome rack' on a different company's sales manager on more than one occasion), and even worse, sexual assault by a male colleague. When women campaign for equality in the workplace, they aren't just talking about equal pay. They are talking about being taken as seriously as male colleagues, not being subjected to harassment and assault, and not being passed over for major promotions because they have a vagina and possibly a kid (or the potential to want a kid one day).

I've joked before that I'm a shoe in to any job I apply to because I'm a woman, and I really wish I hadn't. This 'joke' is a disservice to not only women, but to myself. It minimizes the work I've put in to get to where I am. It overlooks the fact that I managed to work full-time my entire undergraduate and graduate careers while pulling off a pretty respectable GPA. It minimizes the fact that I find a way to balance work with rearing two young children all the while not taking for granted all the stuff my husband has to sacrifice in order for me to continue to work (because daycare ain't cheap). This joke downplays the fact that I probably care more than the majority of my male counterparts, I offer an entirely unique perspective that they simply cannot have, and I have an uncanny ability to multitask since I already have to wear several hats in my daily life. And don't even get me started on the actual intelligence aspect. I am smart. I am well spoken. I communicate quite well. I am personable. And I actually give a crap about the customers I serve. So no, my name is not Daniel. My name is Danielle and despite what you may initially believe, you are in good hands if you are working with me.

*Pro tip: the #1 way to make sure I do the exact opposite of calm down is to instruct me to calm down.

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