Some people ask if it’s hard to be one of the few women at the lab, but I jokingly respond that it’s just like being at college where I was the only female in my mechanical engineering classes. And it’s true. As one of approximately 20 female engineers at Fermilab, it’s not often that I’m in a room with many other women.
Before I started working at Fermilab in 2017, I was intimidated after listening to women in industry talk about their experiences of gender and age biases in the workplace. Not only am I a female engineer, but I am a young engineer as well. Given what I had heard, I was prepared to have my coworkers not take me seriously because of my age. I was expecting to have my ideas ignored in meetings until a male engineer repeated them. These were just a few of the warnings that I and my female colleagues heard about upon graduating from college.
Very thankfully, I’m happy to report that these warnings have been a myth. I have felt included, respected and valued since the first day I started at Fermilab.
Celebrating women’s history this month, it is especially important to recognize that while my experience has been very positive and encouraging, it is not the case for every woman at every company or institution. It’s clear from the news headlines and social media posts that there is still significant discrimination in some workplaces.
As a lab, it is imperative that we continue to be mindful of how we treat each other, regardless of gender, race, age, sex or any other characteristic. With this attitude, Fermilab will lead by example as an institution known for its ground-breaking science and outstanding diversity and inclusion. And that, in and of itself, is reason to celebrate.
Kathrine Cipriano is a Fermilab engineer and co-chair of the Fermilab Society of Women Engineers.