Christie Coplen recently joined Gentherm’s Women Network for a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace. Here, she shares her firsthand experience with gender bias and how she handled it. View the video or read the transcript below:
Video: Gentherm Women's Network
As a female in mechanical engineering a few years ago (we won't put numbers to it), I think there were only two females in my graduating class in mechanical engineering. When I first started, the numbers weren't great. I think half the time I was given assignments just to see if I could get them done, like, "Let's challenge the odd person in the room that kind of stands out."
I think you face some of that. I think working in Mexico, and in some cases in Germany, I think there were special challenges. My first day in Mexico, I actually did not need a radio. You could hear the catcalls through the entire plant. I'm not kidding. I started on one end and you could just hear me walking through the entire plant.
What do you do in that situation at 22? I minored in Spanish, so I went up and told somebody basically, "Do you have a daughter?" You had to address it and put it to an end. No one else could do that for you.
There's lots of other situations like that you find yourself in when you're kind of unique or different from the crowd.
I also think that helped form me. I think that those opportunities were a chance to kind of figure out my bearings and figure out how I dealt with adversity, be it what it may. We all have adversity.
I think those challenges were unique to me being female, but I also think it fundamentally, at a very early stage, I don't think I was ready for all of them. I don't think I handled them all perfectly, but I also think I grew tremendously from every opportunity that I was given like that.