Engineer's first job was bringing down the walls of gender bias

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2003, 12:00am

She says prospective employers doubted if she wanted to work outdoors, and with men

A woman civil engineer says she was turned down by 10 building contractors in three months when she graduated from university four years ago.

Ms Lau, who did not want to give her full name, said some employers admitted to her that they seldom hired women engineers.

The companies were doubtful about her ability and sincerity in wanting to work in a male-dominated industry.

'I felt the gender bias during the interview. The employers kept asking me whether I was willing to stay outdoors all day and work with construction workers who are men,' she said

It did not take long for Ms Lau, who is now in her mid-20s, to realise that engineering was a tough profession for women - at university only 10 per cent of students in her classes were female.

'When I first chose my university major, I understood engineering was a male-dominated industry, but I was very interested in the subject and felt that I should not worry about the gender issue.'

Ms Lau did not receive any replies after the interviews, but she finally found a job in a government department.

'I imagine job hunting for women engineers is even more difficult nowadays with so much economic hardship and such a high jobless rate,' she said.

'I might have to ask for a lower salary if I apply for jobs in the private sector now.'

Ms Lau said the problem of gender bias appeared to be less of a problem working for the government and she had not received any unfair treatment at work so far.

But her department is dominated by men, with only three out of 10 engineers in her office being women. She said she was convinced that women were just as competent as men in male-dominated professions.

'Employers should give women more opportunities. Women workers cannot develop their full potential unless they are given the same opportunity as men.'