I've been called a token so often I lost count. It always bothered me to hear that word applied to me. I never analyzed why until recently.
The explanation that usually followed that label was "the department always has one female engineer never more. The department always has a least one token."
They often said they didn't exactly view me as a token because I was doing real engineering work. The other women read romance novels, knitted, crocheted, etc.
They also viewed me as very smart and the master's in engineering was proof. That only indicates a good work ethic and drive. I do believe they respect my abilities.
I never discouraged their expressions but the secretary did. She got angrier than me about it. She would chastise me often for not taking a stronger stand. They had a right to say it, in my opinion. Free speech.
Most of the time, it wouldn't make a dent in my thinking. Other times, it did. Those times feelings of inferiority to and less than the men would creep into my mind. I felt defective at times because I couldn't be accepted as an engineer like the others. I would wonder what the requirements were to simply be an engineer equal to the men. What would be enough?
The times it didn't bother me I knew I wasn't defective or inferior. I knew I was doing a good job and that good things were going to come from my efforts. I was confident I was their equal as an engineer.
The guys I worked with in that department are great guys. I love them and stay in touch occasionally because of our years together. I don't think they meant any harm. They made a valid observation about the department.
Their comments put a period behind the general attitude towards women in engineering in that department, if not the corporation. That is my recent conclusion due to thinking things through.