Things Have Changed So Much since Mad Men

About 10 years ago, when my daughter was 14, she and I were watching the first episode of Mad Men together. For those of you unfamiliar with Mad Men, it is a series about advertising executives in Manhattan in the ’50s and ’60s. As you can imagine, the way women were treated in an office environment in that era was appalling to my 14-year-old daughter. When I said something about how much I enjoyed the show, my daughter was incredulous. She could not believe that I actually liked a program with such blatant sexism. I explained that to her that those women who braved the office environment in that era played a part in paving the way for me to have the rewarding professional career that I have. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to them, and that program made me appreciate how far we have come.

That said, having spent my entire 30-year career as a professional in the male-dominated field of engineering, I have experienced gender bias from both men and woman. Charlotte Whitton’s famous quote, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” has held true at certain times in my career. As a young engineer I remember preparing for meetings and knowing that my colleagues would not take me seriously if I did not show them that I had technical mastery of the subject I was presenting. My male counterparts did not feel that same pressure.

But times have changed, and I have seen a shift in that mindset.

I started my own engineering firm 19 years ago, and I am proud to say that over 50 percent of our 40 employees are women. I would like to take credit for this but it was not an intentional effort on my part; the majority of the women at my company approached me and were the most qualified candidates for the positions I had available.

I believe that people gravitate toward supervisors they can relate to. They see a woman who happens to be an engineer, a business owner, a mom, and a wife, and maybe those are all roles that they have or would like to have. I always strive to be that positive role model for future generations of both men and women in engineering and business.