Video: Gender and Infrastructure

Last year I visited the Inter-American Development Bank to talk Gender and Infrastructure. 

From there, I've now become a Gender Ambassador for the IDB - which is an awesome honour (and gives me licence to talk about gender related stuff all the time! woo!)

We recorded this video about why gender is important for infrastructure design... hope you enjoy!

Speech on Gender @ the Inter-American Development Bank

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is holding its Transport Knowledge Week and I was extremely honoured to be asked to speak on the topic of gender and bias as it applies to such a technical field.  The program is a two day forum bringing together 50 transport specialists from the Latin America and the Caribbean region and this year they are discussing how to improve project´s impacts by including gender equality objectives. 

In this excerpt (filmed with the amazing Emma and Lucy from Broken Yellow!) it is explained why it is important to take gender into account when designing infrastructure and the value in creating an inclusive environment for colleagues of all genders. 

What do you think? Enjoy!

The research quoted is from:

Hatmaker, D. M. (2013). Engineering Identity: Gender and Professional Identity Negotiation among Women Engineers. Gender, Work & Organization, 20(4), 382-396.

More interesting research on this topic can be found in this report:

Powell, A., Bagilhole, B., & Dainty, A. (2009). How Women Engineers Do and Undo Gender: Consequences for Gender Equality. Gender, Work & Organization, 16(4), 411-428.

Get into it! Fascinating Stuff! 

Transport knowledge week @ the iadb

Transport knowledge week @ the iadb

Everyone is getting married!


I felt like it crept up on me, but I was warned on my 16th birthday.

“Oh you’ll get excited about 16th’s!” she said.

“But then it’s 18ths, then 21sts, then graduations, then engagements, weddings, baby showers, first birthdays…”

I remember being all like “whaaaaaaaaaaat? That shiz is so far out, yolo!” (but yolo wasn’t a thing yet. Trendsetter).

…but it is here!

All of a sudden, I’m being invited to weddings, engagements and baby showers, my facebook feed is full of pictures of children (?) and various issues relating to child rearing (!!).  There are epic debates about the virtues or sins of being married, worries about settling down, friends talking about mortgages and shares and buying houses…

I am super excited for all my friends that are going through these exciting and obviously life changing experiences.

On the other hand, I think I missed the memo.  When did this all start to happen?

What exactly is going on?

Growing up, I guess…


There’s an article that’s making the rounds at the moment: 23 things to do instead of getting engaged before you're 23.

All in all, the tone of the article is a little self-interested and condescending, but hey.  The reply, 24 things to do… is a little more aligned with my personal values, however both articles, and the respective responses (vehement, opinionated, passionate in approval or disapproval) illustrate something larger is at play. Something, I feel, particularly as a young Muslim woman from a traditionally conservative background who has grown up in a thoroughly Western society feels quite keenly.

What social norms are we meant to adhere to?

The world of my parents was simpler in a way: the roles that were to be played were understood.  As my cousin said to me: “We know what we are meant to do to live a ‘good’ life by society’s standards, and how to be a ‘good’ woman. Being good in that way, and making my family happy and proud of me, that is what will make me happy’.

It’s simple. 

Get an education but get married young,

have children,

be a good mother,

hold down a good house.

If you have a career alongside that, great, but your family is more important.

In Western society though, things aren't nearly so prescribed. In fact, the freedom of choice is lauded as revolutionary and liberating.

Yet…there is such anxiety in the twenty-somethings I know.  There seems to be so much confusion around what is what; in relationships, in life, what we are meant to be doing and if we are meant to be settling down (am I behind? Should I find someone to settle with? Am I settling too fast?).

Seeing everyone else’s life, described daily for you in painstaking detail everywhere you look (phone, laptop, tablet…) only exacerbates the FOMO (fear of missing out).

It isn’t even just fear of missing out on an awesome party, it’s the fear of missing out on *life*. It’s the fear that, at its root is the most primal of fears – the fear of ending up alone.

I don’t know if this is something that *all* twenty-somethings go through and have gone through for decades and I am just discovering. This isn’t something I’ve been through before, personally.  I’d also wager society is in a drastically different place to where it was even 20 years ago, so the experiences of previous generations are incomparable.

For me, it will be interesting to see how this year plays out. 

Turning 23 for an Arab/African girl is definitely a point where family and community members start making noises about ‘settling down’ (you should have heard the conversation with my father as soon as I graduated from University…at 20!).

I am not against the idea of marriage as an institution in itself, far from it.  It’s a huge part of Islam (half our ‘deen’, or belief in fact, so marriage is seen as a fundamental part of the way of life), and if I am being perfectly honest, as a Muslim, there are things I can only do as a married woman that the rest of society tells me are really quite fun, so I’d like to get to it!


At the same time though, there seems to be a perception that marriage brings about the end of all the fun. The responsibility, the kids, the family, the mortgage… and for women, the point where you start to think about juggling career and family.

So I don’t even know if I should be anxious about missing out, or living it up because I’ve only got a little while as a young free bird left!

All I know is this.  I believe in fate, so I believe that what happens will happen, and what is meant to be shall be.  I have control over my choices and how I respond to what does happen.

Some things are outside my control.

Being anxious about those things isn’t going to change anything.

So, I’ve decided I will do what I’ve been doing. Living life, being grateful Alhamdulilah, learning as much as I can, appreciating those around me and taking it as it comes.  The fact that other people are at other stages in their life is exciting, but it should not affect how I live my life.

At the end of the day, we are the only ones who have to put up with ourselves forever.  So we better make sure that we’re happy with the choices we make, regardless of what society says (or doesn’t say) we should be doing.


Be like this guy. With more clothes.

WOW Bites: Survival Guide for Chicks on Rigs.

Earlier this month I had the honour of presenting at the World of Women (WOW) part of the Sydney Writers Festival. It was quite an inspiring session, with speakers who included the likes of novelist Melissa Luckashenko to a young Iraqi lady who had traveled to Australia seeking asylum.

Find out more about WOW at Sydney here.

The majority of the 'Bites' - strictly ten minutes bites of inspiration and the like - were quite deep and moving. Lucashenko's and Kristi Mansfield's were both quite brutal to be honest, forcing the audience to confront issues of rape and violence occuring on a daily basis to young women in our own cities.

I took a different tack and went for a slightly more light hearted and humourous angle. My piece was a 'Survival Guide for Chicks on Rigs...' (because you know, there are just so many of us!). I started off with a bit of a poem...and I would like to share a little bit of the presentation with you!


Aren't you frightened, they will ask,

Of the men, the remoteness, the difficulty of the task?

Why on earth do you want to do that, they will question

Where as if you were a guy, that wouldn't rate a mention.

The fact of the day is, ladies and gentlemen,

That this guide is not about survival.

We will survive - Gloria Gaynor said so.

It is about thriving and owning our power from the get go.


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome.

Working on the oil and gas rigs, particularly as a woman, is an adventure and a half indeed.

As I am an engineer and love lists and numbers, I've put together a numbered list of suggestions, and I hope you enjoy!


Number 1.

Determine where YOUR line is, how thick YOUR skin is, how much you are willing to let slide. Factor in the 'drilling rig bonus'.

Often when a woman begins working on a rig, the men won't talk to her for some time at all. Don't take it personally, but they are slightly scared themselves (though they will never admit it!). They won't know how to react to you, what they can say around you, how thick YOUR skin is...they know something will be different now that you are here but they don't know HOW that difference will play out.

Let them take the cues from you. You have power here - a power we as women never used to have, and that is the opportunity to set the tone of the conversation.

What is the drilling rig bonus? An amorphous measure that accepts that normal society is quite different to the microcosm that is the drilling rig and so your line might be different in this situation, or might need to be slightly different. Adjust accordingly.

Number 2.

Make the most of being underestimated.

Some of the rig workers may hold the unspoken belief that a woman is less competent or deserving of a role. We all know that is not the case, but use that underestimation to your benefit! Surprise them at being AWESOME at your job and letting your actions speak for themselves. Being really good at your job is a language they understand and WILL respect, particularly out there.


Number 3.

Have a sense of humour

Nothing breaks down barriers like a bit of laughter. Being witty, sharp, or deploying quick, timely ripsotes are always appreciated (but careful not to descend into bullying).

If you aren't a regular standup comedian, try to see the humour in the everyday interactions - because there is plenty. Personally, I am terrible at being witty but I find most everything hilarious. Nothing warms a hardened man's heart more than having a laugh at a joke he cracked

Number 4.

Learn the language.

There is nothing more effective than good communication. For the sake of mirth though, here are some of the phrases I have picked up (the ones used in polite company anyway!).

I'm drier than a dead dingo's donga.

You wana run with the big dogs you gotta pee in the long grass.

They thought I did what?! That's lower than the basic wage.

I'm like a mushroom. I get fed rubbish, everything just slides off me and I only come out in the dark.


Number 5.

Be Flexible, within limits. Don't forget your rights.

The guys working in the field will appreciate flexibility, humour and cues taken from you, as illustrated previously. A level of flexibility is required, as fighting every single battle is not only ineffective, it is exhausting.

However, you must also be cognizant of your rights as a woman and individual and if things DO go too far and they DO overstep the line, stop them. Use the tools necessary if required.

You might think it is a career limiter but rest assured, it is a career killer for the other individual. The law is on your side. If you are in a situation like this - talk to someone you trust, and then make a decision and don't ever feel guilty for the actions of others.

Number 6.

Always pack more sanitary items than you might think you need. You won't be able to buy any if you're stuck out in the middle of the desert or the ocean.

There's always one really practical survival tip in every guide. This is one of those. Trust me. Oh and a word of warning, the guys LOVE blaming any mood swings on our hormones. It's great.

Number 7.

Be your version of strong.

When I started out, I thought strong only meant masculine. I think that my time on the rigs has redefinined the relationships between masculinity, strength and what it means to be a strong, feminine woman. It means something different to everyone.

Now, for me, strength is in the fact that I can not only phsyically hold my own, but that I am not afraid of the men and the environment. Strength comes from knowing who I am and that I accept the fact that I am a woman in the industry and embrace it. Strength comes from knowing that I can choose to wear, dress, behave and speak how I please - whether that's rough or refined, the strength comes from knowing I have the power and gumption to make that choice.

Strength for you can mean any number of things, and I believe figuring that out is indeed strengthening in itself.

Number 8.

Enjoy the adventure!

Working as a female in a male dominated industry will always raise eyebrows and provoke questions.

Be ready for that. Decide whether this is something you want to *embrace* and talk about or whether it is something you would like to *ignore*.

Remember that no matter how much you ignore it, you still will be the odd one out. But that's not a terrible thing. If there are enough women that want to be the odd one out, soon the day will come when that is no longer the case.

Either way, I think it says a lot that we now have the CHOICE to to participate in this previously closed environment.

Be proud of who you are, and never apologise for it.


So what do you think?

Brisbane Times: Women taking the lower paid jobs?


Here is an article I recently published as an opinion piece for the Brisbane Times.  Check it out here…or comment below!


Are women really getting paid less?

When I first came across the article on the apparent "gender pay gap doubling in a year", I couldn't believe my eyes.

However, when I stopped to think about it, the concept didn't make sense to me, particularly from a graduate point of view.  In my field of engineering, salaries for graduates are set for everyone, regardless of gender.  In fact, I was sure that the females in my graduate class were getting the higher salaries!  Where then was this information coming from?

A quick investigation showed there was a misinterpretation of the Australian government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency's report.  There was, in fact, no actual change in percentage of difference since last year which remained at 3 per cent (WEGA, 2012).


However, a difference of 3 per cent is still a discernible inequality.  Why does this gap exist? It cannot be that employers are actively paying women less. We are in the 21st century, after all.

It would seem that the view that the WEGA report is taking is a macro view, one of graduates generally, as opposed to the micro perspectives of men and women in particular fields.  For example, males are clearly overrepresented in fields such as construction (88 per cent), mining (85 per cent), and manufacturing (75 per cent), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Females on the other hand, are overrepresented in the social services; Health care and social assistance employs 78 per cent females, education and training 70 per cent, and 56 per cent in retail trade. Furthermore, ABS data shows 76 per cent of those in clerical and administration are females.  It is no secret that the fields of mining and construction pay more than health care and education.

So it isn't that employers are paying women differently, it is that there are more females in the lower paying roles and industries.

Is this something that needs to be changed?  Perhaps, and it raises questions about social bias, work-life balance, gendered roles in society and possible disadvantages within the workforce.

Personally, I don't think there is a systemic disadvantage to women, especially not at the graduate level.  There are plenty of equality acts and antidiscrimination laws to protect the rights of almost any group in the workforce, particularly women.  However, there are definitely social biases that play a part.

Engineering, for example, still has extremely low rates of female participation; not because women are less capable, but because girls don't always see it as a natural option (I am still approached by high school girls who say "I'm considering engineering, but isn't that a guy's job?").

Compounding this, the social industries (that have an overrepresentation of women) have lower income levels than technical roles.  Does society undervalue our 'caring' roles, or is it just a case of different jobs deserve different pay levels?

From a long term career perspective, there are numerous studies that indicate women don't find themselves in the pipeline to leadership due to a variety of reasons.  For instance, men hold 2148 crucial line positions in the ASX 500; women hold 141 similar positions. (Australian Census of Women in Leadership, 2012).

So not only does a gap exist at the graduate level, it compounds exponentially throughout the progression of a career.

The question of the pay gap or women's participation and influence in the workforce isn't going to be solved overnight.  It is clear that although there have been great inroads made into women's equality of opportunity in the workforce; a discrepancy still exists at a macro level.

If we want to achieve true equality of outcome, as a society we need to think of more effective ways of unlocking the potential in half our population.

Read the original.


So what do you think?

Back in the days when men were men?


Ah, LOTR…Totally Irrelevant Photo =)

I was told by my work that I am only allowed to write about my personal life, not about work per se.  I am not totally sure what that means, but I am hoping they are just referring to “talking about the actual things we are doing” and not “talking about anything remotely to do with work/having a job/how I feel”.  It is a strange feeling, being beholden to a company or organisation which you depend on for money…I know that is really what “working” is all about, but I had never really taken it that seriously before (for all my sense of responsibility, having someone tell me what I can and can’t do has never been a strong point, just ask my parents =P).

Suffice it to say I work for a large oil services company and so my job is based on the oil and gas rigs, truly male dominated territory.

What is interesting about this though, is how different working in a male dominated field is from studying in one.  I had never even given the issue much thought at all, considering since from about grade 10 I had taken traditionally male subjects and studied mechanical engineering (with less than 10 girls in a class of a couple of hundred).  I honestly thought it wouldn’t even be an issue, I would be ‘all over it’.

Perhaps that was my naivety.

What is the difference? When studying, you grew up with your mates, saw them as colleagues, friends, community, family.  Gender seemed not to be an issue, because the guys saw you as just another student or friend.

Out here in the oil and gas fields, those rules don’t apply anymore.

I won’t say that it is an absolute either way – some people will treat women with kids gloves and try to do anything for them, while others will disregard us and think that we shouldn’t be on the rigs or simply incapable of doing the job as well as a man (not even jokingly…they actually think we can’t do a job because of our chromosomes)…but the fact is that our gender matters, and is a defining part of how we are seen and dealt with.

For someone who has spent the last seven or eight years trying to not make that an issue, that is galling indeed.

An interesting experience though nonetheless, and one that I am embracing.

…and hey, as the fellas say as they chew and spit their dip, “Welcome to the Oil Fields!”