By Megan Berger
Our Real Talk series features women and men in engineering and architecture talking about the challenges and less-than-enjoyable experiences often come along with being a woman – or just being different – in our industries.
For Iranian-born Sheila Karimi, a career in engineering was inevitable. Her father, sister, cousins and family friends back home are engineers, giving her a unique view into the profession from a young age. “I always wanted to see things in reality,” says Sheila. “Putting numbers together on paper is one thing, but I wanted to see the end results in the real world.”
Sheila’s been working in New Zealand for over eight years. After getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Iran, she spent two years getting her Master’s in India. She craved a challenge and a new environment, which is how she found herself in Christchurch, where she’s now a Senior Structural Engineer at Beca.
Overall, she enjoys her work and plans to stay in the field long-term. But when she first started out, things weren’t always that easy. Her first visit to a construction site gave her a glimpse into hierarchy on sites.
“For me, as a young female engineer who is not from New Zealand, it was a big challenge to establish my role on the site. I was talking to the site manager but I could tell he weren’t listening to me. He then emailed my senior engineer, asking the exact same question that he had asked me and which I had given him the answer to already. It took a while for me to establish my role on a construction site, and it only happened by showing my strength and abilities. I made it clear that I was responsible for the project and to come to me if they had questions, not just the other male engineer on my team. By proving myself I was quite successful in that project and since then I didn’t have any problems.”
Do you have a personal story about how you’ve experienced bias or harassment at work? Feel free to reach out to [email protected] to share your story.