01 April, 2018

Starting out on a pioneer journey

Forty years ago, during orientation week at the University of Waterloo, one of our professors looked down at Myrna and I, the only two women in the freshman year of electrical engineering, and said the following,

"Though women are very much under represented in the lecture halls of this university. Please know that you are welcomed. It is my personal experience that the women we have had in our program prove to be as ambitious and more skilled than all the rest of you guys. So, take note!"

Being one of two women amongst hundreds of male students was terrifying. I knew that I was not as ambitious as the other students, and I was most certainly not more skilled. In fact, I was completely puzzled why the university accepted me at all considering that I was missing two academic years. My feeling on that day, hearing those roaring words of confidence was, "He is crazy. That is not going to happen. I will be lucky if I can muddle through".

And muddle through I did. Always in the lower half of the class. Always having to work my ass off to compensate for those two missing years of high school calculus, physics, and chemistry. 

Yet, I did receive an honours degree, albit by the skin of my teeth. And then I decided to go and try my luck at finding a job in Germany in medical equipment. And there it was again. "We have never had a woman engineer working in our department. We have never had a foreigner working here in this position. We don't know if you will be accepted." 

In the last 35 years I have done my darnedest to navigate my way through, at times, a very patriarchal, misogynous, and xenophobic corporate working environment. Considering this was a time when the ideas of micro-aggressionsanxiety gap#metoo were completely unconceivable, I did manage to muddle through quite well. I did not navigate the halls of the corporate world gracefully, but nevertheless I did manage.

Last week, something miraculous happened. One of my favourite companies that I work for as an external consultant and trainer, offered me a full-time permanent job position. It will be exciting work. There is a very engaged team. Their offices are in walking distance from my home. There will be travel to their foreign offices world wide. And even though all of this is rather exciting, it is something else that excites me most.

As mentioned in the video above, multi-generational work groups is the future working environment. One that my grown children will probably find themselves working in more and more as the years go on. Currently, it is not so. Ageism is, in my opinion, one of the least mentioned vulnerable minorities when it comes to representation and diversity. So it is with great pride and elan that I am setting out at the age of 60 on this new career path. This time I have the ambition and skills to shine.

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