Gender Equality in Engineering?

We’re moving offices at work. Due to a massive construction project, we moved to temporary trailer-offices about a year ago.  As of this week, the new office complex is complete. Although i felt quite at home in the trailers, all good things must come to an end, and i’ll be camped in a cube farm by the end of the week.

All logistics for the move have been orchestrated with military precision. Our Division Admin Assistant is in charge of letting us know what to do, when to do it, and all that crap. He’s been great about giving us plenty of advance notice.

For over a month, we’ve known that today would be moving day. Our responsibility? Pack up everything in secured boxes. Write our name and new office number on the outside. Nothing personal, or fragile, as the movers would be palletizing each office, wrapping in shrink wrap, then delivering to the new digs.

Last week, DivAdmin reminded us that “fragile” items included our desktop computers and phones. Given that our IT department is always short-handed, we were to pack ’em up, move ’em, and plug ’em in. Seeing as we are engineers? Seems reasonable.

On Thursday, a recently hired ovaried engineer managed to cause a bit of a flap by hitting “Reply All” to the DivAdmin’s reminder. She said “We have to carry our own computers to the new building? That’s a long walk! I’ll have to make at least a dozen trips to get it moved. This seems outrageous!”

Well, it would be outrageous if we all didn’t have these things called “cars”.  All she had to do was ask DivAdmin. He’d made arrangements for us to load everything in his truck and he was going to do a couple of runs to the new place. Walking it over, one mouse or keyboard at a time, was never part of the strategy.

On Friday, whilst drinking beer with the last crew at the summer picnic, one of the guys mentioned the whiney e-mail. Naturally, he then asked me if i was moving my own stuff.

daisyfae:  Well, i had planned to just throw it in DivAdmin’s truck like everybody else, but now i feel compelled to carry the entire arrangement on my head the half-mile to the new office just to make a point. In heels.

We continued to talk shit about it.  Until it occurred to me that if it had been one of the guys who’d sent that message?  We’d have been calling him a big fat wussy right to his face, rather than snark about it behind his back*.  So i informed the guys that unless they called her out on it, they were guilty of gender discrimination.

i was greeted with a few blank stares.  They weren’t sure if i was serious or not.  To be honest, i wasn’t entirely sure either…

Gender equality.  Seems to me that includes taking your fair ration of shit when you deserve it.

* Truth is?  We’d call him a big fat wussy to his face AND snark about him behind his back.  Probably for several months.

Not “no” but “hell no!”

Since i’ve started the new job, one of the biggest challenges has been working with a remote division.  It’s not just the geography that is the challenge, these folks have operated in an entirely different research culture for decades, and there isn’t much common philosophical ground. 

We both have pieces of a substantial program, and for the most part have been working to serve our corporate masters well – albeit with differing views on what is best.  Their division, however, has been slated for ‘divestiture’ in 2011 and the folks there have the option of moving into our home office, or leaving corporate service.  Needless to say, they are cranky. 

It falls within the realm of my new job to orchestrate the program for my division, and it has become increasingly obvious that we need to develop a unified strategy to best feed the corporate interests.  In the absence of leadership, it has been my style to fill the void.  And i have attempted to do so since arriving at the new digs in mid-June.

Apparently, i have upset some of the fucking dinosaurs senior leadership at the remote division.  For the past month i’ve heard rumblings that they are unhappy with me in the new job.  Nothing direct, nothing documented, just an apparent behind-the-scenes smear campaign.  i assured my management that i’d be happy to address concerns, and would welcome face-to-face discussion, but haven’t gotten the call.

This afternoon a trusted colleague, SS, stopped by my office.  Like me, he is pretty direct in these matters, and asked me point blank about my history with these folks, and what i might have done in the past to piss them off.  We’ve crossed paths before, and i did not hesitate to call bullshit out items for further evaluation when i disagreed with their approach.  Generally, i knew they didn’t “like” me, and could give a flying fuck that we’d never be friends.

After a long conversation about our current stalemate — they are actively slow-rolling any attempts i’m making to develop a joint strategy for the program — we discussed ways to get things moving.  It was a brainstorming session between two people trying to figure a way out of a quirky situation. 

daisyfae:  i can put the history aside, even suck up to them and pretend like the work they’re doing is scientifically relevant.  What can i change about my approach to get this moving again?  Direct confrontation?  Work through the management chain?  i’m open to suggestions…

SS:  Well, you know, if you let it slip that you thought they were doing this because you’re a woman, that might pinch the loaf for good…

daisyfae: [steam sprouting from ears] What? Are you fucking serious?

SS:  They are a bunch of uptight white men*, grasping at straws to keep from working with our division.  We could throw their tactics right back at them…

daisyfae: [flames blasting from nostrils]  Never!  i have NEVER thrown that flag in 28 years of my engineering career, and i’ll be fucked like a drunken monkey if i’m gonna start now!

SS: I understand that, and everyone who works with you knows that.  But we were looking at ways to shut down the bullshit and get to work…

daisyfae: [eyes rolling in head, which is now rotating 360 degrees, “Exorcist” style] Absolutely no fucking way!  Even if it IS why they are doing this, i can’t play it that way… it sets everyone back.  Fuck… but it would shut them up.  Fuck…

In the end?  i decided to go home.  i was vexed, to say the least. 

The proverbial bottom line:  Playing the game their way — by tossing out unsubstantiated allegations of bad behavior — would allow us to most expeditiously get on with the program planning and integration.  Which would best serve our corporate masters. 

But the daisyfae bottom line: No fucking way. 


*SS is an uptight white man.  But a creative thinker…