Thought Leadership

by Camila de Souza & Livia Silva

Part 1: What I have learned hiring women into a male dominated field

(by Livia Silva, Resource Operations Director LATAM for FieldCore, 41 years old)

‘You are crazy! They are never going to last in this job. What will you do when they get pregnant?’ Is a small sample of what I heard from some business leaders and colleagues when in early 2018 I came up with an audacious idea to hire more female talent into field engineering jobs, to go to sites and perform maintenance and installation of power plants. I had the challenge to ramp up regional capacity by hiring 50 new Field Engineers (FE) almost overnight. And I thought: ‘why do I only get CVs for male engineers?’. At the time, the team had 3 female FEs, less than 2% of the region total. Fortunately, I received a lot of support and empowerment within FieldCore to implement my “crazy” ideas. Today there are 37 female FEs in LATAM, 17% of the total. And they are not just a number…I know all of their names by heart and where they are working right now.

I had no playbook going in. But I did learn many, many things along this journey… now 2 years later I can share a few of them with other hiring managers out there who may be on the fence about this and have a chance to give opportunities to more female talent:

  1. Be transparent upfront and partner with your new hires to figure out issues as they come

My team and I quickly opened a regular channel of communication with this new team. We were fully transparent about the job: it requires them to travel most of the year to locations that sometimes do not have good infrastructure. We don’t know how customers and colleagues will react. The honest answer was: we don’t know what we don’t know. But we made ourselves available, listened, and tried to address each new issue as it came up. We went from figuring out uniform sizes to arranging for female restrooms on job sites. We had some skeptical customers and colleagues but, in most cases, after just one job, we received only positive feedback. We were not able to fix everything, but when they raised their hands we listened. And they, in turn, gave us the opportunity to try to do our best and understood that we needed sometime to figure it all out.

  1. Women improved our work environment

Over the past 2 years, every job site I visit I always find a sneaky way to ask about the ‘girls’ to the rest of the site team (other field engineers and craft manpower). Everywhere I go the responses are almost in unison: they work hard, they are very diligent, they are not arrogant and ask when they don’t know, they care a lot about our people, the rest of their colleagues are more disciplined and behave better when one of them is on the team. I will never forget when a turbine supervisor commented about how distasteful jokes and cursing vanish when one of the female engineers is on their shift. Not only were they well received in our work environment, they made an unintended improvement for everyone.

  1. They are more resilient than we all think

Our new female team members get all the same treatment as the others. Good jobs and bad jobs, short and long. And they took it with their heads up and did great: both technically and standing up for themselves when needed. They are connected as a group and they are available to help each other. They embraced the job and are grateful for the opportunity. They find strength in each other and purpose in the fact that they are pioneers in a big way: Customers will not doubt the capability of the next woman arriving in a hardhat and safety boots to fix the turbine. They opened this door and it will now stay open for others for generations to come. I heard some of them say ‘This is for our granddaughters’ future’. It has been 2 years and I confess I still cry every time they say that.

My hope this March 8th, 2020 is that every hiring manager out there rethinks if they are giving women in STEM equal chances to participate in the job market. This decision is in your hands and they want to be considered, even if you don’t really know how to do this.

Last but not least, as we take pause every year on this day to remember that being different and especially being a woman, should be celebrated rather than presented as an obstacle, I take this opportunity to thank all these wonderful women who started this journey with me 2 years ago and FieldCore for allowing me to be ‘crazy’.

Part 2: What I have learned being hired into a male dominated job

(by Camila de Souza, Controls Field Engineer level II for FieldCore, 26 years old)

‘What are you doing here? You should be washing dishes’ was one of the first things I heard when I started as a Field Engineer. And guess what? I wash them as well, no problem.

Since a little girl I wanted to be an engineer. No one told me that it was ‘a boy thing’, I discovered it by myself. I didn’t understand why they didn’t see me as ‘one of the boys’. And it took me more than ten years to realize that there was no need to change who I was to fit in. I understood then that there is nothing wrong in being different.

Working and taking care of home are not mutually exclusive. Actually, our multitasking skills will help us to handle both. It’s actually very simple. It is all about learning from your experiences and colleagues and passing forward your knowledge to others who are open to listen. It is all about loving what you do.

Studying and working in a male dominated environment are both a great challenge and a huge opportunity for personal growth and for breaking down barriers for future generations. Therefore, I do my best in the field, not only for myself but also for the girls who will come next.

I was hired as a field engineer in FieldCore 2 years ago. It all happened so fast: within a week I was interviewed, hired and travelling from Argentina to Kuwait for training. Now it sounds very funny but I honestly checked the internet to see if FieldCore really existed and had a training center in the Middle East and I was not getting into some kind of scam. Two years have passed fast. I still have a lot to learn but I wanted to share some things with other girls considering this path:

  1. It is not an urban myth: You have to work harder (but you will learn more)

At first, your opinion will be the very last to be heard and probably you are going to be judged by your appearance. You might work more than your male colleague and yet he might be seen as more reliable at first by your customer or your manager. It will be frustrating in the beginning, but as the time passes you will become stronger. Use it in your favor, the more you do, the more you learn.  Everything you do counts and before you notice you will grow both professionally and personally faster.

  1. Find your support network

It is not easy to be the different one, to feel you do not fit in. Since there are still few women in certain jobs, your chances of meeting another female colleague will be less. But you will find some brilliant woman who will support, teach and inspire you. It is so much easier when you find a female friend that understands what you are going through, that listens and is by your side facing the difficulties. This is our chance to motivate other women and show them that together we are stronger. It gets much easier when we proactively help each other, rather than sabotage each other.

  1. I am different. So what?

No, you don’t have to be a man. Better than that, you are going to become the woman you want to be. Companies that hire female professionals are more interested in their skills and knowledge. Sometimes the bias or fear for being different starts in ourselves. As another FE once wisely told me ‘Strength is not muscles, strength is in the brain’. Take advantage of this and show what you are capable of. Being different is not wrong, it makes a team richer. Use your natural characteristics to help your team and learn from the others to improve those skills you are not strong enough yet.

On this March 8th, 2020, I celebrate strong women around the world that are breaking barriers, beating stereotypes, fighting for our rights, speaking up for equality. I wish all of them the freedom to choose what they want to do, when, and where. For those in management supporting us, for those in the field moving the needle: let’s continue, together, working hard for the girls to come. I am thankful for being part of this adventure!

 

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