Being a female in a male dominated industry can be tricky. I can be classified as conceited or become one of the guys…I’m not conceited and definitely not a guy.
I spent most of last week out of town attending a drill training being hosted in our corporate office and given by a very qualified driller that mentioned Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (which is the book that started it all for me) and laughed at one of my jokes, so he is good with me. The training attendees consisted of the drilling department, heavy equipment operators, a few geologists, and I was there as a geologist and the person who is working on eventually getting standardized procedures out for the company. The training itself was great (if you are a nerd like me, you live for this stuff). The trainer definitely knows how to present, has great stories, and his food analogies really resonated with me.
I was the only female participating in this training. There was people from my office, but no one I work directly with making it slightly out of my comfort zone, but that wasn’t going to stop me from learning. Not sure this is relevant, but I started my period the day this training started, so I was more hyper aware of my gender than I would usually be. It’s hard to feel like everyone knows why you are getting up to use the restroom every hour on the hour, questioning whether they can tell or god forbid smell…or did they think I had diarrhea?!?…weird things I never thought I would be thinking about. Like the true nerd I am, I picked my seat in the very front part of the room before I realized I would have to get up and walk past everyone to the ladies room that was in the back of the room.
I mostly kept to myself during our breaks, especially since most of the drillers went outside to smoke during every break. I don’t smoke or care to be around smoke, so I stayed inside; not to mention I had to take every opportunity to visit the ladies room. I talked to the driller sitting in my table for a bit when he wasn’t smoking, but it’s never comfortable to go up to men and just start conversations as a woman, so I mostly just sat there. As a woman, I feel that I have to stop and really think about my approach because I don’t want to give out a nonprofessional vibe, like the guy who asked me if I was married during the first minute of our conversation while we waited for the rig to mobilize during a field portion of the training. That question was followed with a questions about kids and then a fist bump while telling me I was doing really good for myself being 31 with no kids…did I mention he also asked my age during this short conversation? Maybe he just doesn’t know how to talk to women in the work environment because he normally only has to talk to men. He was nice and it was nothing more than the chuckle I get when I think back on it, but this conversation reinforced my fears in building conversations with these men.
I drove up to the training with our most tenure geologist, a normally stern older man that knows what he is doing and whose approval and respect as geologist I definitely want to get. He did not sit next to me or talk to me during the training, but we drove together, so we stopped to have an early quiet dinner together on the way back to the hotel every night. Everyone that was out of town stayed in separate rooms at the same hotel. On the last day of training, the drillers from San Antonio asked us what we were doing for dinner and invited us to join them for dinner at this popular steakhouse in the city. We agreed and met them for dinner at 6pm. They took my drink order first and just like all the previous nights, I ordered water, but unlike previous nights, everyone I was having dinner with ordered alcoholic drinks, even the stern geologist, so I ordered a glass of wine to go with my steak.
I think I’m a pretty sociable person, even more so when I drink, but I know you have to tread lightly as one lone female in a dinner with a bunch of rough and tough drilling males. It’s true that the best networking opportunities often happen outside the work environment and very often over drinks, but how do I stay cool, but not so cool that I allow them to be disrespectful to me; like sending me their room number in case I was bored and wanted to talk…okay grandpa…as if! Yes, that did happen, but I’m not making it a big deal because it wasn’t to me because I obviously wasn’t there for that and I don’t want to be that person that no one can be comfortable being themselves around.
During that last night dinner, our CEO ended up at the same restaurant as us, found us, said hello, and told us to put everything on the company, including as many drinks as we want. What started out as glass of wine with water to only accompany my dinner quickly turned into four glasses of wine…so much for treading lightly! There was a lounge attached to our hotel, which we all visited after dinner and before we knew it, it was way past my 8pm bedtime from the evening before.
I hate that I let my guard down and got comfortable, however, I did learn that everyone did think I was conceited prior to this day. Do I regret it? I’m trying really hard not to because I know I’m a pretty cool person and I love that I got to know my peers in a different level, but with that being said, I don’t want one night of drinking and comradery to cause neglect for the hard work and knowledge I bring to my position. The truth is that I care way too much what people think.
I don’t want any special treatment or anything, at my detriment I’m very much an “Anything you can do, I can do better” type of person (maybe that is why they thought I was conceited?!). Unless it’s lifting sandbags, concrete bags, etc. (which I still do, but the guys can lift way more than me) I can figure it out and make it happen, none of this stuff is rocket science (its rock science!!! haha). I just hope I didn’t embarrass myself by making too many of those jokes like I just did, but it’s too late now.