As A Petrochem Engineer, And Also A ‘Girl’, Here’s What I Found

Posted: August 13, 2018

I am an Engineer by profession and ‘Engineering’ drives me on. But I am also a ‘Girl’. My experience in the petrochemical industry has been wonderful, but also showed me that women in production need to push beyond the walls.

In one of the TEDx minutes from a very beautiful speaker, this wonderful line stuck in my ear, “Courage is the ability to tell your story with all your heart”. Life goes on, in layers one over the other. We can’t merge them together but we can relish and cherish the memories of these layers with all the spice and sugar, sandwiched with changing flavours. Every layer presents a different story and that is how, life gives us the chance to craft different stories within the same story. And this, is amazing.

I am unfurling for you the layer of this small professional story in a wonderful petrochemical complex. Equipped with all state-of-art designs and technologies, it offers a brilliant opportunity to learn and grow in the sector. When we (I with other 4 girls in the batch) first reached the plant, we were so excited whenever we found a lady there. We used to whisper, “Here she is!” Managerial role…but ‘she is’!

Since most of my friends also started their careers with core sectors varying from upstream oil, refineries, fertilisers etc. I used to ask them, are there any girls there? Yeah, no comparisons but ‘countable’. So, this conception was clear: she is here. Probably, my plant was just commissioned and hence the recruitment in the technical sector was done on priority.

Panel Operations and Field Operations would constitute the major technical functions in the plant. Technical Services is yet another variable – it can be done well only after prior knowledge of the other two. I had a great learning opportunity in the field as well as the panel. Though the team had no women, the people were lively to learn with and so was the environment; gender barriers are a born ‘no’ to me, and it was all swift then; even my colleagues were very encouraging. So, this was the bright phase of the story.

When it came to my friends, they were also excited to learn in their companies. A few companies had hired girls in great number, so they were given the chance to perform technical operations in the field. A few have changed the policies from the ‘office’ to the ‘plant’. So, the arena seems positively building up for women in production technology, to work in this sector, which is termed challenging for them, but then, your passion extends beyond the boundary of these challenges!

Where lie the barriers then?

Operations in these industries usually continue in shifts; we cannot work on those non-regular patterns as per the Industrial Guidelines act, and so fitting ‘A Girl’ into the structure always remains the issue and ‘the points’ to be shifted to ensure that women have a regular job pattern increase. Next, the employees’ comfort working with the opposite gender; I remember reading about Mayo experiments in regard to the issue – for this fact (of working women) to become natural for men, we not only need to work to create a women-friendly culture in the industry but also to have them in significant number – then, the disparities and discomfort will equitably be reduced.

When you are few in number, you tend to become a liability, even though you are not. It would be a preconceived notion that the job would be difficult for you and that when a man is in place you can be replaced. Safety at the workplace is still a major issue to tackle, with a number of workers in the field who will keep staring at you, for a woman in the workplace is something ‘near to impossible’ for them. Another factor that cannot be omitted is that the physical labour required to prepare yourself for the field would be significant, and you may need more time compared to the opposite gender. These issues remained the same with each of my friends as they went to the field.

I had a very supportive team and they always helped me in understanding every aspect, wherever required. I was there for a short period (my passion drives me to the next layer!) but it was sufficient to understand the existing condition of women working in production technology, though, Technical Services remain open to them. What comes out from this analysis is, do women need more professional support to grow in the industry? If it could be made available, it would have been great.

I think, your passion drives you; if this is something you look for and it interests you, you have to really push hard and build the space for yourself. It has to be earned. We have some brilliant female minds in almost all the sectors of the economy, doing really great in their fields; this field too has to be pushed beyond the barriers, beyond the walls.

Top image designed by Vecteezy

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An engineering student at MNIT Jaipur who loves writing. Along with, a versatile being who

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