McGoldrick strikes a chord with women

Dear sir:

I just had a few comments regarding your May article, “Where are the women?”

Oh, we're out there, it's just that you need a magnifying glass to see us.

I was blessed with parents that didn't scold me when I took apart all the phones and alarm clocks in the house when I was 12. They helped me to see that it was all part of the learning process. I agree with Mr. McGoldrick, when he stated, “As a body, engineers should take blame for not getting out there to be proactive in promulgating ourselves.” I have found that here in the United States, we seem to lack the motivation to help those young women interested in the electronics to be aware of the various options available to them. Here's where we could learn more from our neighbors. In Canada, they have mentoring programs and summer internships for young women of all ages. The Women's Television Network and the WTN Foundation run television technology programs for women and girls in Canada.

Believe me, I knew going into this profession that being taken seriously would be the biggest challenge, but I'm like most female engineers — we love challenges. I've learned, over the years, (and I'm still in my 30s) that patience and humor are virtues that get me through all the scrutinizing, insensitive comments and prejudice that comes from my male co-workers. Even now, as I re-enter the broadcast engineering field after pursuing my own business … I have found that I need to work at lesser jobs to prove my skills and abilities once again before being welcomed into the inner circle. Thanks for the article.
Nancy Napoli-Pedrick, WPHL-TV

To Mr. McGoldrick:

As a female Engineer for Dome Productions Inc. In Toronto, Canada, I agree somewhat with your article about how few female engineers there are in the work force. Speaking from personal experience, after two years of being in this field I still find myself competing with other male co-workers for the same respect. Heck, a few of the operators I work with still think I'm a Utility or a TVA. I grit my teeth and explain, “Yes, I am an engineer.” I may not be as experienced as some of my co-workers at this moment in my career; however, I am a hard worker, eager to learn and I deserve the respect and the trust of my colleagues.

Maybe there is lack of women in this field because, let's face it, it is not the most glamorous of jobs. It is a dirty job and maybe many women are not willing to commit to a profession that may take them away from their family life to a certain extent. Some weeks I put in up to 30 hours of overtime. If I were raising a child this would certainly become a problem. Maybe a lot of women hold a typical 9-to-5 job in order to have similar schedules as their children.
Jaimie Swain

Another letter:

I just got done reading your article about “Where are all the women?” and I must say that I had a bit of a reaction. As a woman who has spent the last 17 years as a broadcast engineer, I've also noticed that not many women have chosen the field of electronics … but I don't think it's because girls in middle school start thinking of math as a “boy-geek” thing. As an advanced placement math student, I can recall perfectly the time at which it became socially un-cool to be good at math … boys made it perfectly clear that girls who were good at math and science were not as attractive and therefore not as socially desirable — it was clearly threatening to their impending masculinity. Many girls I knew decided they didn't want to be smart if it meant they couldn't get a date, and so many girls decided to take languages, or social science, or creative writing, where it was okay for them to succeed.

I think things are a bit better today, as there are a lot of studies that have been done about this phenomenon in girls' development, and male/female roles are somewhat less narrowly defined that in past decades. But I think that educators in our middle and high schools, parents and engineers need to make a concerted effort to educate our kids about the myriad of possibilities that are available to us as individuals, and to encourage values that reflect diversity in the workplace.

My eight-year-old daughter knows that if she needs something fixed, she can call me — but she also most times will try to take it apart herself. We need to expose our kids to women doing all kinds of work, so that it doesn't seem strange or unusual. And we need to enlist women interns to do a stint in the engineering department— not just production.

And of course, we need to remind our daughters that if they want to support themselves, they need to find jobs that will compensate them sufficiently. That was the only reason I joined the profession.
Lori Tennenhouse
Assistant Chief Engineer, WXMI-TV