Women in the trade?!?


This is sort of a list of situations I and other women I've talked with have come across in the trades. I've put it in a quiz format, but there aren't exactly right or wrong answers. I'm not exactly a certified expert in these situations (though friends have called me certifiable) and I may not always abide by my own advice, but the point is to do your best. Everything here is open to discussion with me, and you can reach me by e-mail at: jeanne@ironworking.com

This first section here is for the men. The next is more for women. I've put myself into these situations just so there's no confusion that I'm trying to be ALL the women you have worked with or will work with in ALL trades. Of course, once you get to know someone, you know what their comfort levels are and hopefully communicate about any misunderstandings. I'm just here to help.

1) Your foreman has just put you to work with me. Do you
A. Take charge
B. Make me take charge and see what I can do
C. Ask me what I feel comfortable doing
D. Scream and panic and run away.

You could do "A" as long as you know what you're doing. You could do "B" if you thought I knew what I was doing. But probably "C" is the better choice, since we'll be working together, and that takes some communication. "D" would be silly. Relax, we aren't getting married. It's like working with any other ironworker. Kind of.

2) You want to get to know me better, so you ask me
A. Are you married?
B. Are you gay?
C. Do you want to go out to dinner and have some drinks sometime?
D. Why the hell did you want to become an ironworker anyhow?

I know a lot of women who lie about things like "A" and "B" to get guys to leave them alone. I also know women who tell the truth about these things too. But to judge work on personal information doesn't seem really fair. Do you like it when guys ask you if you're gay? I'm thinking no. "C" could be ok as long as I know where you're coming from. The ironworker rumor mill can be cruel, and it's not only easy to find out if you're married, how many times, and how you came out of divorce court. It's best to be straight up. I personally don't take "dates" on the job. Maybe out to lunch or something friendly. My typical answer to "D" is "because I've heard you guys are the biggest sweethearts of all the trades." My more in depth answer is because I hate offices, I like the challenge, being outside, being able to see something that I helped built, and the money is ok too.

3) I seem to be having trouble lifting a heavy object or am struggling to keep up my end.
A. You push me aside and carry it for me.
B. You loudly encourage me to keep trying, because that's the way to make a hand out of me.
C. You send for another guy.
D. You send for more tools.

"A" is kind of bad, because I would be sad because I have nothing to do. Also you could get hurt. "B" is nice in a weird way, but could also be bad if I hurt myself. "C" is a possibility if you have someone to send for to help us. "D" I think in the best of worlds would be the coolest. Tools were invented to make work easy. And you really do have to be smarter that the steel.

4) What's wrong! I don't seem to like you!
A. I must be gay
B. I must be conspiring against you
C. You must be doing something wrong.
D. You smell.

"A" is kind of silly. Just because I don't like you doesn't mean I don't like all men. And it also has nothing to do with sexual orientation--plenty of men who hate women can't live without them. "B" seems to me that you have problems with other people as well. Maybe if we talked a little more about what's going on, you wouldn't feel like I was against you. Hell, I have enough enemies as it is, why would I go out of my way for one more. "C" is not necessarily so. Perhaps someone has told me something about you. It would be wrong for me to assume stuff about you just on the basis of hearsay. Or perhaps I'm just pissed off at something else, and taking it out on you. Also my bad. Again, the remedy is to ask and talk. "D" --face it. We both smell.

5) I like you a whole lot. And you've told me you're married. But I kind of scare you.
A. Tell me you're gay
B. Explain to me that you are really not interested in a relationship, but would like to continue the comfortable work relationship we have.
C. Sleep with me and hope I go away.
D. Yell sexual harassment

"A"--I'd advise, no. "B" is something I ought to do more myself. "C" could be fun, but the afterward could be terrible. Screaming, dropping things of high places, weird situations--and you're married, so you're in the tight spot. This last bit is bad. So don't do this. "D" would be interesting. Since I am an advocate that people should have equal say, in an ideal society this ought to work. But in reality, you may be teased, and not taken very seriously by your peers. But if you're right, you're right. If it is harrassment, persue it and set a precedent. Good luck.

6) I seem to be extremely grouchy.
A. Ask me if I'm on the rag.
B. Ask me if there's something the matter
C. Ask me what you did wrong.
D. Ignore me and hope for the best.

"A"--um, if we've gotten to the point where I'm explicitly talking about your sexual organs and processes as well, I still wouldn't advise it. If I'm pissed off, there's no way this is going to make me like you even more. "B" is the most open ended. If I tell you, it's something I feel I can tell you. If I don't then it's my responsibility. "C" puts you on the defensive. I bet I could find stuff if I were grouchy enough. Don't tempt me. "D" could be ok if we're working ok. If it seems to be affecting my performance, then perhaps you need to ask me or ask me to either put it aside or step aside. But I can be pretty grouchy. Sorry.

1) A guy calls me "Baby."
A. I yell sexual harrassment, and report him
B. Tell him I'm not a baby.
C. Tell him that my name is Jeanne, what's his name.
D. Smile and giggle.

From what I understand, sexual harrassment involves an environment of hostility or whatever, not just a one time deal. If it bothers you, you need to tell him so. Don't play coy. Some of my partners I will let them calling me "babe" or "honey" slip by. Some guys just call everyone that. But really, if it bothers you, tell him that it does. If he persists, tell the foreman and/or the steward. At that point he's doing it to annoy you, and perhaps is intentionally creating a workplace of intimidation. This is bad. It's good to keep a record of you daily activity (it's good to keep a record period--for paycheck, pension, etc.) A consistent diary is admissible in court.

But I also advise you not to go to court unless you have to. Frivolous charges only undermine the more serious ones. And it scares some of the menfolk.

2) My partner won't let me do anything.
A. Complain to your foreman
B. Go find other work to do
C. Do nothing
D. Tell him that you'd really like to be doing something

If the guy is reasonable, he'll realise that you don't like to be standing around. I've done all four of the choices, depending on the situation. The bottom line is that you are both being paid the same to do the work. It's not fair to either of you for one of you to be doing all the work. And it only makes you look bad to be standing around.

3) I've got a question to ask, but I don't want to seem like I'm dumb.

You've got to ask some questions. Nobody knows everything. Sometimes guys will refuse to ask other guys questions, but that's also how some of the stuff that goes up ends up coming right back down. Think about what you're going to say, if you're nervous, and try to frame the question in a smart way. Try to relate the question to what you're working with or what you're familiar with.

4) This guy keeps touching me.


5) My foreman yells at me all the time.

he's going to do that.

6) There's explicit pictures of naked women posted and/or drawn everywhere.

"Bear magazine" centerfold. You have as much right to put up disturbing stuff as they do.

7) They keep telling dirty jokes in the shack and it's raining outside.