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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #938: Sykes, Marguerite (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (July 22, 2008)

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00:22:20 - 00:23:13 Women

women, Forest Products Laboratory, status, changes, civil rights; Mallory, Marcia Patton; Young, Teresa; harassment, sexism

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00:22:20

LB

I guess did you really get to see the status of women change here?

MS

Definitely. I think part of this was legislation, civil rights legislation and also we had a very gutsy young chemical engineer---well two of them actually---Marcia Patton Mallory who now is I think [a regional] director or certainly a high office in the Forest Service in Colorado the last I heard anyway. And the other was Teresa Young who worked in our unit and she was the first one who had a job in the pilot plant. And those people plus the legislation, plus Forest Service had a class action suit against them in California, because of women not getting promoted and getting a lot of harassment and I think it made the Forest Service across the board more amenable to change.

LB

Do you remember what year that was?

MS

I suppose it was in the---oh dear that's hard to remember---'70s maybe [mid or early '80s], before it hit here. I think we were [the Lab was] always kind of behind the time. I remember very dramatically there was a meeting here at the Lab and for the first time anybody who wanted to attend could instead of just the scientists. And one of the speakers from the Lab made a very sexist comment and then there was a very sexist joke a little later in the meeting. And somebody from another company [industry] who was also here made the comment when we out to lunch with a bunch of us, he didn't think this kind of feeling was alive and well in the current day and age. I think some of the young of women [engineers] who attended felt very, very offended by this. I guess it wasn't that new to those of us who had been around. That definitely has changed before I left [retired].

LB

And when was that? In the '70s as well?

MS

Well let's see, that was probably later, I think probably in the [late] '80s that that happened.

LB

I sort of assume with it being part of the government that it would change with---

MS

Yeah but I think at that time all the project leaders and division heads and whatever were male and I guess it's easy to protect your own turf. That's maybe not what you brought me in to talk about but it was part of my life here and I think I could have been much more productive sooner, let's put it this way. I ended up, I think, having my name on [and contributing significantly to], I don't know, eighty some publications in those last ten years or fifteen years maximum---and there were a lot of years before then that I could have been used more efficiently, but no.

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