As a woman who worked in the construction industry for almost twenty years this is a phrase I have heard more times than I care to remember. It by turns irritates, depresses and amuses me.
Irritation at the notion that a job can still be viewed as gender specific. Depression that after twenty years in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) career this attitude is still endemic. Amusement at the ridiculousness of the statement.
I wrote a post a while ago on the topic of Pink is for Girls. For all that I am an engineer and construction professional, I am also a girl. And a girly one at that. But, I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Nor do I think that they should be.
In as much as we seek to address the very real issue that men still have the upper hand in (some, most?) work environments, we also need to stop belittling women for choosing to be, well, women.
As we work to achieve balance and flexible working; to break down gender stereotypes; to ensure that women aren’t penalised in the workplace for having children; we must also acknowledge that it’s not all bad out there, and applaud those doing great things to change perceptions and shift the reality of working life.
I never, in almost twenty years in the construction industry felt that I was being marginalised for being female (even after having children); maybe I was lucky, but really I was just good at my job and respected as such; and was probably too busy to notice it if it did happen. And, I wore dresses.
I like to bake and craft. I liked designing intelligent building facades. I like to decorate cakes. I liked to be on a construction site overseeing the installation of ductwork. I like to dance around the living room with the kids. I liked to chair meetings and discuss challenges and fix problems.
I don’t mean to sound flippant, because I truly hope that my daughter will grow up in to a world where this debate is no longer necessary; but I have spent twenty years very much being a woman in a man’s world (according to many!). Women don’t need to change, and to be fair I don’t think most men do either; the environment needs to change.
I know that I was lucky. The company I worked for had excellent maternity benefits and genuinely welcomed me back and accepted my request for flexible working. This is still not the case in many workplaces; however it is far too easy to tar all companies (men?) with the same brush, and this is equally unhelpful.
There are many wonderful woman doing amazing things, just as there are many men doing wonderful things. Put simply; we all deserve the opportunity to be the best we can be.
Following the Women’s Voices in the Media debate at BritMums Live, there was quite a heated discussion on the nature and place of feminism. I was slightly surprised at the number of women who said that they were not a feminist. That the negative connotations of the word had become so severe that they were choosing not to associate with it.
While I can understand this, and many of them made very good points about why they choose not to call themselves a feminist; feminism is about equality. And ultimately with equality will come a day when it’s not a man’s world, but everyone’s world.
You can find this weeks #ThePrompt linky here. I do hope this topic inspired you; I look forward to hearing your views.