KYM

During the 1980s, I managed an aerospace engineering division in Singapore.

Kym had been part of the pioneer batch of women recruited by the air force and trained as mechanics amidst much rah-rah publicity. After her contract lapsed, like all ex-personnel, she tried for a job in one of the government-linked companies (GLC) that served as maintenance contractors for the air force. None of the GLCs wanted her – because she was a woman. On top of that, she had a child.

She applied for a vacancy in one of my workshops. The human resource manager (HRM) was aghast when I decided to employ Kym who would be the first female aircraft technician in a civilian company in Singapore.

I was amused that my HRM, a woman, was unsympathetic to a sister and annoyed that she questioned my decision – you guessed it, back then I drove a bulldozer!

Kym got the job and did as well as any male technician. After two years, I promoted her to take charge of a team, raising eyebrows among the redneck mechanics. However, they knew better than to squeak!

SUE

When I decided to employ Sue as my private secretary, my HRM’s eyes popped. She uttered words to this effect, “Well, I never thought that…well, you know…”

“…employ someone not good-looking?”

My previous secretary was eye-candy, but Sue had not fully recovered from an accident. Back then, the plastic surgeons could only do so much. She revealed that companies had rejected her because of her looks.

I made clear that I expected nothing less but the best performance. Sue was a fast learner and it was a pleasure to show her the ropes.

I thought I had equipped her with enough skills to survive my departure but was wrong. After I left the MNC, the new boss had his own ideas and Sue had to resign.

To her credit, she set up a hairdressing salon, and within two years had two outlets in Singapore and one across the border in Malaysia.

(Based on true incidents though names of the women are fictitious)

********** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2012 **********

45 comments

  1. It’s bad enough we make value judgments about people’s worth; worse, when we do, we base them on all the wrong things.

    Your conduct here may seem like a small thing, but it is not. You displayed integrity and kindness.

    I find virtues aesthetic – there is something compelling about them. This is what I mean – it is something that shines through a situation. Well done.

    1. Thank you Kilroy,

      Growing up as a member of a minority community, I experienced acute discrimination. But these people are not my teachers. Incidentally, both Kym and Sue are from the majority community.

      We can only try and do so much and hope that it rubs off.

      Peace, Eric

  2. Wow, Eric, no wonder you make such a great husband and support of us female writers online! Bless you for your fairness and compassion in treating both of those coworker ladies! So wonderful to hear about “Sue” making such a success with her own business after you left that company!

    1. Now that I have two adult daughters, I can only hope they receive fair treatment.

      Hmmm, now that you mention it and please don’t get me wrong – but I never did approach my fellow bloggers’ posts as “female” or “male” view points. We are all part of this wonderful community – with a rainbow of contributions, wisdom and life experiences to share and learn from, I reckon. But you are right, I do get pissed off when people (women/men) are treated badly. Sorry for the language (blush, blush)

      Thank you also for your kind words my dear,
      Eric

  3. Great stories. I know those occurred in Singapore, but I’ve seen the same stuff happen in the U.S. We claim to be so progressive, but women are still treated extremely unfairly in the few places I’ve worked. Equal employment seems to be improving, but most of my male co-workers are pretty demeaning to women without even realizing it. It’s kind of sad.

    Even “harmless”, offhand comments that aren’t meant to be taken seriously are poisonous. The other day, I was trying to explain to one of my co-workers why using words like “gay” or “retarded” as synonyms for “stupid” or “dumb” would prevent us from ever getting out of the mindset that those terms really are synonymous. He didn’t seem to get it. :/

    1. Thank you, Ethan, for your visit and comment.

      What I did notice is, many women who struggle to reach the top, then turn around and actively keep other women down…in Singapore I have seen this behaviour exhibited by men from minority races…they distance themselves from other men/women of their race…

      Perhaps behaviourial scientists can explain this…

      All good wishes, Eric

      1. Yeah, I’ve heard about that phenomenon. Quite strange. I suppose it feels like more of an achievement if you’re the only woman or the only one of your race to accomplish something? I have no idea…

      2. Part of this might also stem from not feeling safe in their position.

        It’s kind of like kids in school who aren’t popular and don’t quite fit in. There are often others who are in far worse positions – who are ridiculed and picked on. The last thing in the world the first type want is to be associated with the second. There is a nagging fear of being dragged down to that social level. It’s nonsense – it makes you less than you are – but it is compelling. These (2nd or 3rd tier on the social ladder) are often less kind and more malicious – to distance themselves..

      3. You know Kilroy, and please don’t take this as trying to blow smoke up your (ahem!) But you come across as a very observant and deep thinking person. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

        We have a tale here: two pails of crabs, one filled with 1st tier and the other with 2nd tier crabs. How do you tell the difference? Easy, because the 2nd tier needs no cover – don’t worry no crab can escape. Because, whenever one tries to climb out, the others pull it down!

  4. Unfortunately the reality is “eye-candy” is almost like you are approx 40% on the winning track. Like some bosses who feel that they must have a great looking assistant, some men also prefers a wife that he can show off. Women on the other hand are jealous if the other person looks better or they just don’t wish to be associated with a plain Jane. To stay focus and seek for quality beyond looks and gender has been tough and will always be I reckon. There are not many like you.

      1. Definitely ———– You chose The high Road – and THAT EQUALS INTEGRITY ………
        It’s a Rare Trait – at least – I don’t see It often These Days .—– Unfortunately ——
        People Tend to be out for themselves – which makes complete sense – But When we choose The High road – we are looking out for everybody ……Including Ourselves 🙂

  5. excellent post here and thank you for having such an open mind…we need more men like you around…I say hats off to both women and KUDOS…and my hat is off to you as well Eric…again, excellent post…Bev

    1. You are very welcome Bev.

      I’ve seen many (managers/politicians/priests) spew platitudes…but don’t walk the talk. I learnt to walk many years ago – on occasion I do trip and fall but hey, I still do better than many, I reckon.

  6. Good for you for not bending to the pressures of your co-workers. I was sorry to read that Sue didn’t fare so well at the job after you left. At least she got the last laugh with her salons!

    1. Thank you Christy.
      I was looking for the best I could find to help me do my job. Secondly, it pisses me off (sorry for this language) then and now, when people are treated unfairly.
      Luv and peace, Eric

    1. Thank you Sharmishtha – one thing I noticed in the corporate world, female managers were just as bad as their male counterparts when it came to blocking other women…

  7. I’ve always employed people according to their abilities and did not care much for their gender. The women I’ve advanced on the corporate ladder have never let me down and proved to be the best choice for the job.

    1. Good on you Ian. As most of us know, the best for the job and the promotions based on merit – no other way. Hope the weekend is going well there, Eric

  8. My wife Joyce was in a class for USAF aircraft mechanics. She became the first female crewchief on F-111 fighters. Went by Joyce Handlin, then Joyce Martineau. Wonder if y’all ever encountered her? (spent 13 wonderful years together, she died as Joyce Foley…miss her)

    1. Hello Mike,

      Joyce sounds like a fantastic trailblazer. I’m sure that path she cut had opened avenues for many women who came later.

      Peace and blessings, Eric

      1. Thanks,for your kind words, Eric. The class Joyce was in was the first one the USAF had since Ww II for female aircraft mechanics. She later was sent to a class to train crew chiefs. Never wanted ‘accepted’ female positions in the AF of her time. All those women were trailblazers. Joyce had a great mentor (Col. David Stephenson) who encouraged her to enroll in a 4-yr degree program and get a ROTC commissioning. She served with the ‘Snake Eaters’ at Hurlburt Field as a Maintenance officer. Lotsa those gals opened doors for many others. Regards…Mike

    2. Mike

      Joyce and I were bud’s at Miami. She was a Wonderful lady. Joyce was my ROTC mentor. She taught me even if you put your foot in your mouth, give a big smile, own the mistake and keep pressing. People will give you another chance if show them you mean business and work hard to prove you can do it. Her effervescent smile and infectious laugh is missed.
      Rox

  9. Good for you, Eric – and good for “Sue.” I’ve never seen a correlation between good looks and good skills – in fact, generally it’s just the opposite.

    1. Thank you dear.

      Grandpa once said – Power and position are meant for two purposes > to do your job well and to help people. Anything else, and it is abuse of your power and position.

      All my life, whenever I am in some position of power – I tried living by this and it has cost me some…

      Luv and peace, Eric 🙂

  10. Really well done on both accounts, Eric – your stories are believable (unfortunately) even in today’s ‘progressive’ society, and address issues that are more common to women than most people know. Kudos! ~ Julie 🙂

    1. Dear Julie,

      Sadly, you are right…but I don’t despair. It is getting better, though I don’t kid myself about the length of the road…

      Love and peace, Eric 🙂

    1. Terrible isn’t it…race, language, religion, looks, nationalities – the divides are innumerable. But I dare say that it is better now than 50 years ago. However, we need to constantly keep pushing for more…

  11. Eric, I am so touched by this story. It really is shame that this kind of thing still goes on. I wonder if it is an inborn thing that people don’t like others who are not, shall I say, “eye-candy” for men or women? I have to admit that I too suffer from that frailty at times and then sharply correct myself when I recognize it. Too bad. . .I keep thinking that this too shall pass. . .

    Sorry I haven’t commented about more of your writings lately, have been so busy trying to get my blog going. . .yada, yada, yada. . .

    I love your writing and am looking forward to catching up on what I have missed.

    Blessings,
    Sandy

    1. Dear Sandy,
      We all have our hang-ups but as long as we recognise these and try hard to put matters right, we are on the right path I reckon. Bless you.

      Don’t worry about not visiting/commenting – this is supposed to be fun and not some ‘imposition’. Like old friends we can/should ‘meet’ years later and take off without missing a single beat and I mean this with all sincerity.

      Love and peace, Eric

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