A skid steer at Riteway Fencing, Kamloops
Amber G. is a young woman, age 22, who works for a fencing company in Kamloops. She is one of few people around who can say they have four years of installing experience… and more rare? She is a female!
She describes an overall good experience working as a female in a male dominated work environment but has courageously shared some of the not-so-good things that she feels needs some improvement.
She began fencing in the summer of 2014 and has been doing it every summer since. It has been her summer job as she is going to school to be a teacher. She has always been in the field as a labourer/helper.
I asked her to tell us how her gender plays a role in her job life.
“I have had really good work staff so I have never experienced any negativity due to my female gender. However, when we did work on bigger job sites with more people, I did often feel ignored and some of the guys working would give me ‘what are you doing here’ kind of looks.
It did make me feel uncomfortable but also it just made me want to prove that I can work just as hard as anyone else here. However, I have had an overall positive experience working in a male-dominated setting.
Surprisingly, I have had many positive comments from home-owners, other workers, and companies how it is nice to see a female out building fences.
Besides the odd few, most of the men have always been kind and accepting.
A big challenge that I face every month is that time of the month. Working in the field, there is often no bathrooms. Therefore, I have to wait all day to deal with what I have to do.
Employers do not want us to use up gas to drive somewhere to find a bathroom and I would never complain about it because there is always a thought that they could find someone else who doesn’t need to ‘use’ the bathroom as much as I would.
The second challenge is definitely the muscle mass difference. Just instances where say this guy can carry 5 pipes on his shoulder and I can only carry 3. My thought pattern to that is that I just have to go twice as fast and hopefully I can equal the amounts out, so that can be a bit stressful.
I often feel bad when I cannot carry one of the bigger rolls of mesh by myself and I need some help. I always think if they had another guy working with them they would be able to do it on their own and it would be easier. However, I try to work hard and do what I can!”
When asked what improvements could be made for the future, here is what she had to say:
“What I think needs to improve is the expectations that females can do what males can do. It is becoming better but I still find that some of the guys will take over things because they think I won’t be able to do it. However, I believe that this will improve over time as more females enter the trade industry and prove that it is possible and it is becoming a more acceptable environment for this to happen.
Equality and acceptance of course, but mainly helping everyone out. I often ask for help carrying some of the heavier things and it would be nice if it was an environment where everyone felt open enough to ask for help as well instead of over-exerting themselves.”
Thanks again Amber and best of luck with your future teaching endeavors. It means a lot to have you open up our conversation. I appreciate your honesty in regards to bathrooms and lifting challenges. Personally I have heard both appreciation from male co workers as well as complaints: “Now I am stuck with a girl so I have to lift more!”
Personally I connect with the feeling that you need to work harder to ‘prove yourself’. Is this fair? What are we females bringing to the table?
Hopefully we will not just uproot more questions as we progress! Hoping we can come up with some answers!
Fencers at a sub station, Kamloops