When people hear the word engineer they immediately think of engines and the engine room. As a watch keeping engineer, 80% of my job is operating the control room (ECR), doing 4 hour watches followed by maintenance time and rest hours.
I love being at sea, because it allows me to travel the world while learning new things every day. When people ask me why I chose engineering (and they ask that a lot!), I simply answer “Why not?”. Men are rarely asked the same question.
There are still some senior officers who call me “missy” and talk to me like I am a little girl, even though I’m almost 40. One chief engineer used to walk into ECR on my watch, and if there were any male colleagues of mine there, he would accuse them of being there just to flirt with me. He thought he was being funny, but it made both me and my colleagues uncomfortable.
I used to believe the world had come a long way when it comes to gender equality, but unfortunately there is still a long way ahead. Equality is not only about equal opportunities, but being treated like an equal, and as a professional. Women are all too often judged on their appearance, and not by their skills and knowledge.
If you want to work on ships, especially passenger ships, be aware of the rumor mill. What might seem like innocent gossip might end up ruining your career.
Berit Sandli, Norway