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Sayings At Work - Interesting Memories of Gender Sensitive - Work Related Matters in Male-Oriented Engineering Industry

Vanita is an engineer-researcher-consultant-artist: a gifted singer-poetess; & writes in English-Hindi-Gujarati on her diverse experiences

Sayings characterize every language, every dialect prevailing on our beautiful abode, the Earth, our Mother Earth. They are subtle and expressive, catchy and captivating, at times pining, while at times liberating and healing.

Here is an incident revolving around some sayings that relates to gender sensitivity issues and touches upon matters related to knowledge, academic qualifications, work and working conditions in male-dominated Engineering Industry ....


A small group of women in an Engineering Industry ....

Ladies are rare in the field of Mechanical Engineering. Along with the challenges that are inevitable, respect and care from seniors and awe-inspired respect from colleagues and subordinates are generally a natural outcome of the qualifications, caliber and positions for such ladies.

In an atmosphere where very few ladies are working, gender-specific challenges require cool nerves and wit to ensure focus on work and cordial / neutral relationships with co-workers / subordinates.

After completing my Masters in Thermal Science, a branch of Mechanical Engineering, I joined as a Senior Design Engineer in a radiator manufacturing company in the south-western outskirts of Vadodara in Gujarat (India). I had earlier worked in the Industry in work domains such as, Tendering, Estimation, Design and Valuation after completing my graduation, for more than eight years and then opted for further studies.

There were a couple of fresh graduate engineering trainee girls / young ladies working in my department in the radiator manufacturing unit that I had joined. The number of women in the whole premises was around eight or nine. There were in all, more than 400 people working in this branch / unit of the organization / company, including administrative, technical, sales and marketing staff as well as technicians / workers. Of the eight or nine ladies around, three of us were in Design and Development and the rest were in Administration, Accounts and Housekeeping departments.

Jokes and mockery - lighter hue of heavy facts ....

A draftsman in the our department had quite a sore, sarcastic sense of humour. He was old and experienced, but under-qualified for higher positions. Though respected for his age and experience, his disappointment on his obvious stagnation in career couldn’t help surfacing out from time to time, in the form of comments and remarks on the “lack of knowledge” of new-comers, youngsters, “qualified” fools ....

The talk around was also that he had a tendency of holding information / data, especially from new-comers, that caused blockages in the work-flow. He would then tease them, as they struggled with their work for their “ignorance”, cracking "jokes" and citing anecdotes / sayings and so on ....

The gaps in industry-institute interactions in the field of Engineering had some definite roles to play in the traces of truth that peeped through some of his remarks.

This flaw in the quality of Education imparted in the field of Engineering (as also in other fields) has led to the development of a strange mind-set among students.

Knowledge Is Essential, Not Mere Labels of Qualifications ....

Graduation turns Examination oriented to the extent of clearing Examination just to acquire the label of being an Engineer - by methods such as, collecting important questions and their standard answers, cramming them up, stuffing minds with information that is hardly or partly understood and that vanishes as soon as the written Examination is over ....

Learning, the joy of learning with awareness of the usefulness of the subject in practice, in real life situations is very often found missing in such a way of "educating" oneself.

And hence, fresh graduates are often found falling short of the sound anchoring of fundamentals that would help them face any bullying that they might be subjected to in competitive atmospheres in the Industry.

On the other side of the coin is the stagnation in career prospects of the draftsman, due to lack of up-gradation of qualifications, which could have been possible through continuing further studies along with career or through some continuing education programmes that perhaps may not have been easy to opt for.

Whatever be the background and reasons, undercurrents of mockery, bullying and provocations could be sensed in the jokes that were going on.

Jokes On The Trainee Ladies ....

The trainee ladies were obviously, easy targets to some typical jokes. I often found them grumbling on jokes and remarks passed on by the draftsman.

One of his common comments on ladies was, “…. Well ! Afterall, ladies carry their brains in their heels ! ....”

This has reference to an old and infamous saying in Gujarati – “Ladies carry their brains in their heels.”

The comments were passed on, in a flow of talks in a lighter vein, and hence would incite laughter, sometimes followed by further illustrations / comments ....

However, that was obviously causing discomfort to the two young ladies.


A Crackling End To The Joke(s) ....

One day, during tea break, one such joke broke in, when I was around.

And from my usually quiet and composed being emerged a surprisingly spontaneous remark, “It is good that the ladies carry their brains in their heels, so that they can be put to immediate use when needed. The real problem is with some men who altogether send theirs for grazing ! Their brains are totally unavailable for use !!”

This had reference to a saying in Gujarati and Hindi, which addresses absent-minded / stupid / crazy people as those who have sent their brains for grazing to the pasture (Buddhi ghaas charane gayi hai).

There was an outburst of laughter and applauds. The girls rejoiced at the reply. The comments about carrying brains in the heels were not to be heard again.

True equality means holding everyone accountable in the same way, regardless of race, gender, faith, ethnicity or political ideology.

- Monica Crowley

© 2021 Vanita Thakkar