Riding In Cars With Boys

Our blogger, Top Gear Philippines' Sheng, gives tips on surviving--and succeeding--in a male-dominated industry.

I've been friends with a lot of guys my entire life, so I thought that joining the all-male team of Top Gear Philippines wouldn't require much adjustment on my part as far as dealing with guys are concerned. Now I realize how laughably naive I was.

It's not even that guys' brains are wired differently, although I have to admit that sometimes, my teammates "typical male" traits--they procrastinate, can't multitask, develop allergic reactions to clerical duties such as filing, scheduling, and accounting--make me want to chase after them with a bag containing a few choice weapons of torture. Actually, it's not working with guys per se that's the main challenge. It's working in a male-dominated field and succeeding. Or surviving, at the very least.

Cars will always be male territory. I say this even if I've met perfectly gracious gentlemen in the industry telling me that women can make (and have made) names for themselves in the automotive world. Make no mistake, I completely agree with them on that one. However, I think what they're refusing to say is despite the fact that women can achieve success in a man's world, we face at least one additional difficulty: that of hurdling the gender barrier.

The good news is, it's all perfectly doable as long as you're willing to work extra-hard for it. Here are some survival tips I've picked up while riding in cars with boys--both in the literal and metaphorical sense:
1. Mind your jargon. Technical terms are a guy thing, I think, but if you choose to enter the realm of men, you have to learn and adapt. It helped that I already knew when I first started that, in the motoring world, the term "pole position" does not denote a bedroom stance. Still, I had to do a hell lot of research, and even now I'm still realizing how little I know. Bottom line is, whatever field you end up working in, don't get caught with your pants down.

2. Know where to go. Whether you're driving or taking public transportation, just the simple act of making sure you know your way will help win a guy's respect. Studies show that women have lower spatial IQ than men, so learn how to read a map, or ask for detailed directions from someone who knows. It also helps if you can find alternate routes to your destination--shortcuts are cool, as far as guys are concerned.

3. Don't be afraid to grunge down and get dirty. This took a bit of getting used to for me, and I'm not even a girly-girl. But it's part of the job requirement, and elbow grease isn't something you can't get rid of under the shower at the end of the day. In my case, I'll towel-dry an entire car on location if it rains, for instance, and there's no time to drive to a car wash. And when packing for out-of-town trips, as much as I'd like to bring both a hair dryer and a straightening iron, I just pack the hair dryer.

4. Be independent. If there's a way to do things on your own, choose that option even if the easy way out is to ask for assistance. But don't be smug about it--if you're offered help, decline politely and say you'd like to try and take a stab at it on your own first. Of course, you have to know your limits, too--as far as lifting heavy stuff is concerned, for example, it's best to leave that to the boys. (Take it from me--my "independence" has taken a toll on my lower back.)

5. Control your emotions. Emotions will always be there, regardless of sex and gender. Whether it's true or not that we're the "more emotional" of the two sexes, it's best to keep emotions in check especially in the workplace. Don't be a doormat, though--if I'm getting frustrated or angry about a work-related matter, I try stepping out for a while to clear my head before going back to discuss the problem.

I think the most important thing in all of this is, we really have to exceed expectations to win the professional respect of male colleagues--which, to their credit, they will be happy to give, more so if you deserve it. And while they may be willing to make concessions for us, we should try as much as possible to show them (in a neutral, civil manner, of course) that it's not necessary.

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