Winsome Herde is an engineer.
She has advice for teenage girls who want to go into careers or trades which some might think are the preserve of men: “Just saddle up and go and do it”.
She was born and brought up in Deepwater but went to an all girls school in Armidale in her late teens. In university, she did chemical and biological engineering but at Glen Innes council she has broader engineering duties involving water treatment as well as roads and bridges.
She says that men have mostly been supportive, certainly at the council where she works now.
What’s her advice if a woman encounters sexism? She cites the American comedienne, Tina Fey, who advises women to ignore sexism, ageism, lookism or “extreme Buddism” (part of Fey’s comedy routine) if it isn’t an obstacle to advancement – but “when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were ‘jerky’ to you”.
Winsome Herde says: “When I decided to enrol in engineering the ‘male dominant’ aspect didn’t even cross my mind. Didn’t think about it – was 100% a non-issue to me. And as it turned out, fifty per cent of the students majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering, as I was, were female. One of these females went on to win the university medal for highest academic achievement in our class. She was absolutely brilliant in every way, with the exception of being a little too moral … the cow never once let me copy her assignments.
“Post-graduation, the collection of tad-poles that was us, turned into frogs and hopped off to find ourselves jobs. Anyone who had studied hard and had at least a modicum of emotional intelligence and common sense was quickly snapped up, boys and girls alike.
“My career, from graduation onwards, has been a different story in that I’ve predominantly worked with and been surrounded by men. And it’s been really great. I’m sure there has been some degree of prejudice along the way – I’ve worked with the odd man whose mind set could be best compared to that of a Neanderthal back in prehistoric days – however... I just ignored the opinions of these stinky cavemen.
“I couldn’t care less if Joe Blow thinks a bloke would be doing a better job. Or if Sam Citizen would rather take instructions from another man. I Really, it’s a fact of life that some people will be negative towards other people, for many different reasons… I simply choose not to put any truck in their negativity and to ignore it”