Which engineering industry is good for girls

Angela Utzig-Müller - Process Engineering Project Engineer at EPC Engineering & Technologies GmbH

What do you particularly like about your job?

Due to the constant further development of technology and products as well as new technologies and markets, work is never boring. I was never really worried about my job because the career prospects for chemical and process engineers have always been very good since I started my career. In addition, the compatibility of work and family also plays a major role for me. My job enables me to realize my personal ideas in this regard.

Why did you choose this profession? / How did you come to this career decision / your current job?

Since I was a child, I have generally had a great deal of interest in science and technology. I especially enjoyed the tricky tasks in the natural sciences, deriving connections or proofs, etc., a lot more. But applying knowledge was also very easy for me. Later on, repairing my car and understanding the technology used in it was a time-consuming activity for me for a long time.

Since I grew up with two brothers, I grew up less with typical girls' activities. The natural science high school I attended was originally a boys' high school and when I started there it was only open to girls in the second year. This fact still strongly determined the teaching. My math and chemistry teacher recommended that I take a look at the chemical engineering chair in Dortmund, independently of one another. After this visit the decision was made.

Have you ever faced prejudice in your job? If so, how did you deal with it and if not, how would you deal with it?

At first I was often not treated as a full-fledged engineer, but rather smiled at as a girl who got lost in her job. Especially with customers in Asia, at the beginning of a meeting there was probably the idea that I had come along to write the minutes. These starting difficulties could then be quickly resolved.
As a young professional I was on the one hand relatively young compared to fellow students, on the other hand I also looked quite young. At that time I was also the only engineer who met a group with well-established customs, which started with jokes that were not entirely clean or with an image of women that often meant home and hearth.

It didn’t take long before the first argument with the top chief of process engineering took place. I had completed a task and I was sure that the criticism of my solution was not justified. I announced this and asked for the explanation in order to be able to avoid this mistake in the future. The discussion on the part of my interlocutor became more and more aggressive and louder, the room filled with interested listeners, but I couldn't leave the conversation without a solution and stayed relaxed and calm. After this incident, I was initially the topic of conversation in the office: You knew who I was and from that moment on I was a serious colleague, at least in my area. In many situations, quick-wittedness or a casual saying also helped me.

However, I am of the opinion that the situation in terms of reputation and attitudes towards women in male professions has improved significantly over the past 30 years and that this is almost part of the normal picture.

In general, how do you see the opportunities for women on the job market who apply in a technical environment? What career opportunities do you see for women especially in the engineering industry?

In my opinion, this is an area in which gender has significantly less influence on earnings and career opportunities compared to other occupational fields, even if absolute equality has certainly not yet been achieved everywhere. Furthermore, women benefit from the fact that more and more men are now taking at least some of their parental leave and there is significantly better childcare available. This reduces the fear of many employers to hire a woman. In addition, there are not enough male candidates available in this area - so women also have a real chance on the job market.

What tips would you like to give prospective engineers?

Young women in particular should make themselves aware that they treat colleagues, fellow students and professors - men and women - with a clear conscience, respectfully but also at eye level. My observation shows that behavior that seems too defensive often leads to some people quickly recognizing and exploiting it. Every now and then this has the consequence that the skills are not correctly assessed. I can only advise you not to lose your self-confidence in any situation - firmly and firmly without becoming stubborn or loud. Personally, I mostly find it pleasant to work with men, for the most part, as the communication and the working atmosphere are usually open, clear and clear.