Val Edmunds is a Performance Engineer at Westland and remembers being interviewed for her job
I got a call to Westlands for interview while I was off travelling so I came here and had my interview, which was extremely interesting. They took me for a walk round the site and a lot of the engineering people were in Portacabins and we went into the Portacabins and there were all these rolled-up drawings by the desks and they said, “Those are there to hit the rats when they run up the walls” and then I was introduced to the cats that were on the Westland pay roll, who was there to keep the rats down and that was the start and then at the interview they said, “To show us your engineering expertise” because they obviously hadn’t had many women applying for engineering jobs, they said “Do you make your own clothes?” And, I was so appalled because, to this day, I can’t sew on a button and this is the person who was still sewing their domestic science apron still two terms into domestic science. So, I was convinced I didn’t have the job, which is why I accepted the job with the exploration people and then I got offered the job here.
I met someone in the supermarket recently and they said we remember your first day. We were told that a woman was coming to work in the office and we all came to the windows to have a look, expecting a blonde leggy thing – and it was me – and I am the exact opposite. So anyway, everybody was very nice.
Things were very different then and I did have the chap who sat behind me saying, “You shouldn’t be here” and I said, “Well, what should I be doing?” and he said,“Well, my wife is at home washing the towels” and I thought, oh, my goodness, is this what I should be doing, but I didn’t.
When I first came, fresh out of convent school and university really, never been anywhere else, I used to work in an office which was above the experimental shop and every morning I’d have to walk through there and every morning they would whistle the tune from Laurel and Hardy that goes – doo-de-do, doo-de-do, and they would bang their spanners on the desk and there were loads of girly magazines and if you walked faster, they would just whistle it faster and they did that without fail, every day, for two years. They never got tired of it. I met someone from those days more recently and I said “that would not be allowed now” but you just had to ignore it.