Mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied today told the annual conference of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association that working on male-dominated oil rigs was life-changing:
Ms Abdel-Magied said she had not begun to embrace the concept of diversity until two years ago when she broke into the oil and gas industry, working on rigs in Queensland and Western Australia.
“I hated the idea of feminism, I was like, ‘feminism is for chicks who can’t handle jokes’,” she said.
“I thought people who kept talking about diversity and inclusion were people that studies arts. They weren’t engineers. It wasn’t until I went into the industry and I saw the reality that I actually started to think, maybe this a thing I should care about.”
Her comments came after she attracted controversy in February by telling the ABC’s Q&A program in February that she believed Islam was “the most feminist religion”.
Ms Abdel-Magied told the conference today that after gaining a job as an engineer she had no idea how to act because she “had no-one to show me what it was like to be a successful woman on a rig.”
“So I pretended to be a middle-aged white bloke,“ she said to laughter, describing how she would swear and swagger like her male colleagues until she realised this was “reinforcing the existing culture”.
Yet in an earlier interview Abdel-Magied speaks highly of her work:
What advice would you give a young person considering a career in mechanical engineering?
Do it, do it, do it! Studying mechanical engineering gives you the foundations on which to build a career that benefits both you and the wider world. The first couple of years are tough because you’re learning so many new things. But push through that because the rewards are so worth it. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it – believe in yourself and then others will too.
And in a 20 minute 2015 discussion with fringe-feminist Clementine Ford (at 37:00), Abdel-Magied attributes her conversion to feminism to sexism within Australia’s Sudanese community. Her sole complaint about working on male-dominated drilling rigs: it was awkward asking, “do you guys have a female toilet?”