There was my mother. She was a strong, matriarchal figure. All the women in the family are much the same – her mother, my sister, my daughter, my nieces. It is a family trait. My father, like many of his generation, came back from war with what today would be diagnosed as PTSD. My mother held us together as a family. Mum led by example to prove that women are just a strong and capable as men.
There was the headmaster at my school. A loving and gentle man, although very strict. He was the one who treated the girls and boys equally – no stereotyping for him. So perhaps he was one of the key people in my life. He did not think that the sciences were for the boys, unlike one of the other teachers in the school. A key memory was that the other teacher picked on me around the science and maths subjects. His report on my Maths result at the end of year 11 was that he did not think that Maths was right for me. Our headmaster, who taught the other Maths subject, said that he found the opposite. I was one of the top Maths students in the class! And was always helping the guys in the Chemistry classes. I have a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Maths. Who was right?
My husband has always treated me as an equal – he did not expect me to sit at home and look after the house and children. There were the years of course when I was at home with children as childcare was not easily available in the 1970s. But he supported me in returning to work when the children were 4 and 6 years old. He did not feel belittled over the later years of our working lives when I was in a more senior position and earning more than him.
Were there others? Of course. There was one of my work colleagues in recent years who respected me and looked up to me. Much of the time I was the manager of the team in which he worked, but he never resented working for a woman. There were some of course who did not like it. And others who saw only the female, not the intelligence and skills behind the body. They also shaped me as they caused me to be more determined to prove that I was as capable as any man in my chosen career.
Because of these people, and many others, I have always refused to feel inferior in a male dominated industry because of my gender.
So, my mother and headmaster shaped me as an independent person, not accepting a female stereotype, and my husband and work colleague (among others) reinforced this.