I am lucky enough to have landed my dream job, currently undergoing a year long internship as a trainee Project Manager for a commercial set building company, and it’s very much a male dominated environment. Last year when I was here on placement I was the only female other than the two ladies in accounts. Now they have three female interns, two more female admin staff, a female draughtsperson and even a female carpenter (hurrah!).
Despite being such a testosterone drenched workplace, I have never experienced any kind of prejudice, harassment or sexism other than the occasional joshing about having a pink screwdriver – which I found a calm response of “no, actually it’s a Milwaukee 12v impact driver”, tends to shut them up. If a male employee chooses to compliment me on how I look, it’s generally done in the nicest way possible.
A friend recently enquired as to how my new job as a “Project Manageress” was going and I immediately felt affronted and insulted. I corrected him: “Assistant Project Manager.” My friend, kept pushing on changing my title to Manageress – “To me Manageress suggests someone much more hardnosed. Gets it all done, without sacrificing their femininity” – and the more he pushed, the more defensive I got, and the more it got me thinking.
Yes it’s a wonderful mental image of a woman in a 90s power-suit and a pair of 5-inch stilettos strutting around a workshop telling men twice her age what to do, possibly a bit of tactile bending over workbenches, but it is so far removed from the truth I found his comments to be the most objectifying. The truth is that I’m often in a baggy jumper, usually wearing casual high street clothes, in an outfit always ruined by steel toe cap boots – safety first people.
I then started to imagine my colleagues reactions if I decided to call myself a ‘manageress’, and it was impossible. Why would I want to stand out from the boys, single myself out and make myself different? Those three little letters got under my skin more than a cat-call from a passing van ever has done.
Another argument from my apparently pro-equality compadre: “The way I see it, you’re stronger if you don’t have to hide your femininity to still be taken seriously.” Yes, I am quite obviously a girl. I have bright red hair and always a full face of makeup. I have boobs and a bum and I don’t pretend that I don’t. To suggest I have to add three letters to my job title to be taken seriously is laughable. I love my job. I love the fact I’m working in a man’s world, without sacrificing anything that makes me feel comfortable as a woman, and I would hate for anything to change that. I rely on my intelligence, my organisation and diligence to succeed in my industry, not a tight skirt and my ‘femininity’.
Saying that, someone really needs to invent some cute steel toe caps.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Amber Dernulc is a Creative Project Manager, set designer/dresser and costume/prop wizard. She also occasionally matches her fingernails to her surroundings. Image of Amber taken from Twitter. Second image via TVARK.