Friday, 20 October 2006


Another interesting day.

Ok, so there was a big pow-wow today, with the Education Mavenette of the AutoCRC.

I better provide subtitles.

My PhD - and about a dozen others - is being funded by the Co-Operative Research Centre (CRC) for advanced Automotive systems. CRCs are joint educational/Industry Research and Development groups, co-operative partnerships where academic and industry groups get together to see what they can do for each other. Industry provides the money, and gets both directed research, a higher profile amongst undergrads, and even a say in what is taught, so they have a skilled workforce that meets their needs.

This was a planning meeting, saying what the situation was, and to explore future possibilities and overcome difficulties.

One of the 3 main problems the Automotive Industry has here is Diversity - there isn't any. Only 8% of engineering graduates are female, and less than 1% of engineers working in the auto industry.

As the senior female engineer there (3 gals, 30 guys, sigh) , and since I'm a member of the WICcans (Women in Information and Communication - WIC - the national group), and the WITches (Women in Information Technology - the group within the ANU's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology), I got a special after-meeting one-on-one with the Education mavenette. She was really interested in what was going on, and needed the contacts.

Well, after a Kaffeklatsch about Diversity, how to achieve it, what's gone wrong with previous attempts etc, I decided to give her the post-grad treatment. I showed her my presentation on Intersex, and about three quarters of the way through the penny started to drop. The slide about passport difficulties for IS and TS people, as she knew that I'd had some for unspecified reasons.

She still burst out in stifled laughs when she saw the last slide - the one detailing (with pictures) my unique perspective. Then we got around to discussing how TS is 1:3500 or so in the general population, but 1:100 in IT, and we think about 1:250 in Engineering generally.

They're just starting to formulate HR policies in this regard, so I'll be involved in that in addition to my PhD studies. As she said, we might even generate a paper on the subject.

It was great to get a hug from her as she left. I think we'll work well together.


Chap said...

Pictures? Did it include this one (slightly nsfw)?

Oh, to be that fit and trim...although I am more of the male type persuasion...

Zoe Brain said...

Pursuasion? Nah, it's something you're born with. Never mind, we can't all be female or the species would die out.

My friends tell me that men have their uses - can't see it myself, but maybe I'll learn better one day. Oh, and don't worry, despite being a "spy in the enemy camp" for 30 odd years, and having of neccssity had to become an expert in male body language and external behaviour, I still haven't got a clue how guys can think the way they do.

TMA in the 2nd CZ is easy in comparison.

Oh and Chap - thanks for the support. It's really appreciated, and makes my life a lot easier and more enjoyable. This is one heck of a ride, great fun in many ways, but distinctly difficult in others. You've helped.

Calamity Jane said...

Zoe, now for one of those unanswerable questions - do you think that you would be following the same career path in a male dominated field had you been born with the body that you were supposed to have?

Zoe Brain said...

Good question, Jane. One I've thought about a lot.

I picked the name "Zoe" at age 10, after the Dr Who companion.
My ambitions in life at the time were to have a family, to do some world travel, to get a doctorate one day, and to work on a space programme. I thought I'd have a normal female puberty at the time, you see.

It would have been more difficult struggling against a glass ceiling, but if that was the only difficulty, I think I would have made it anyway. At a lower seniority, but I would have gotten there.

What I think would have happened though is that I would have been preggers at age 16 or so, (I was always terribly innocent), and ended up with half a dozen kids by age 35, and working as a teacher in a Kindergarten. I probably wouldn't have finished High School, let alone gone to University. My maternal urge is stronger than most women - and there was only one possibility of being a parent for me. I knew that at age 15, and made a conscious decision to play a male role as best I could. It sustained me, and as soon as my condition sterilised me, the last prop holding up the tenuous Boy Act was removed. It was the point of no return for me, my bridges were burnt.

Something that keeps me from railing at an unfair fate that landed me with a (mainly) boy body is the knowledge that I wouldn't swap with other women who could never be mothers either, because I have a little boy. It would have been nice to have more, but given the medical odds, I was so very, very fortunate.

Now let's hope that you get a transplant soon, and that you can adopt as the result. Excluding you for Health reasons is inhuman. I'm not the only woman treated unjustly by an uncaring and unjust system. Fingers crossed for you, in this and other ways too.

Chap said...

You coulda been born in a favela, or in Saudi, or with cystic fibrosis, or a smart black woman in Ghana taken for a slave, et cetera et cetera.

Everybody could have better circumstances, and nobody on teh Internets knows who the other guy on the other end is anyway...

Lloyd Flack said...

What happend would have depended on what circles you socialized with. Most likely you'd have done what Amber did and ended up with a fellow geek. To get pregnant early you'd have to have been dishonest with him in a way I can't see you acting.

The glass ceiling applies to anyone who is not prepared to sacrifice too much for the job and the orgaization. It also applies to some extent to males who put family before firm. If you had been brought up female you probably would not have been willing to pay the price of rapid advancement especially if you had a family.