Claire Woods, Operations Director at Prima Electronic Services
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
Working in a very male dominated environment has had its struggles, especially earlier in my career when I was managing a team of men that had worked in the company longer than I had lived. At times it has been hard to be taken seriously and I often feel that I have had to work harder than my male counterparts to gain the same level of acceptance and respect. Even nowadays, stereotypes are still prevalent, such as during a visit to a trade show where all the answers to technical questions asked by me were directed to a male colleague. Whilst in the past this frustrated me and affected my confidence, nowadays I am able to brush it off.
Can you please share with us any secrets of success or tips for young female engineers?
Starting any new career can be daunting and none is without its difficulties. I think the world in general is becoming more aware of the benefits to diversity, however, experiences of this within the workplace differ greatly depending upon the culture, not just for female engineers but for any group that would be considered a minority. My advice would be to be confident in your abilities and to raise concerns if you feel you are not being treated fairly or respectfully. Early in my career I had several issues with this, on one occasion my manager that was the instigator, calling me a “stupid little girl” in team meetings and other derogatory terms relating to being female. When I raised this issue, I was told that I was too sensitive, therefore, I was too scared to escalate it further for fear of repercussions or a reputation that would affect my future career. Other advice would be to be aware of your comfort zone and regularly challenge yourself to push yourself beyond it. Also, take opportunities when they are offered, nothing needs to be forever and in the unlikely event you don’t find yourself enjoying your new situation, don’t worry, there will always be further opportunities to try something different.