Sunday, 9 November 2014

Gender neutrality or equality? Where does it fit in today's careers?

Honestly, I don't know where to start.
This one has been on the back burner for a while.

And then last week, something happened in the press.
Probably unnoticed by the majority.
But a hotel chain in Manchester eventually covered up its hoarding.
The hoarding portrayed images of a woman and a man.
Projecting an image of the construction sector, which is not reflective of the construction sector.
For women.
Or men.

I am upset about it.
Although I am aware I am not 'on message'.
Or I am only 50% on message.

My parents brought me up to be the best I could be.
They dissuaded me from drama and working in a shop.
I have two brothers who studied to be an engineer and mechanic respectively.
Naturally, my stubbornness meant I studied drama and ended up working in a shop.

Did my parents dissuade 'female-preferred routes'? Endorse 'male determined routes'?
Or did they just recognise where our strengths lay?

My elder brother now has a career in CAD, degree related, he lives in Thailand, and has done so more or less, since I was 18.
My younger brother is a tattooist, and for over 10 years has had his own studio in Cardiff.
He discovered that being a mechanic meant putting up with the elements, and he didn't like that much.

Me, I dropped out of studying drama.
Worked in a shop.
And applied for a job working with construction employers.

I remember my first meeting.
I couldn't understand why the dynamics in the room were so wrong.
Until I realised I was the only woman.

I remember my first day.
Being mistaken for the work experience student.

Thirteen years on.
Three children made.
Our choices become that much more considered.
Some things have changed.
I don't get mistaken for a work experience student.
There are more women in associated roles.
The age range is getting there.
Overlooking the build of the Olympic Park, November 2008
And now, more than ever, I am conscious of the reality for my daughter and two sons.
Promoting the trade!
This month, I sat in the reception of a site office, overhearing a conversation behind a divider, a conversation between men, that one couldn't multi-task because he wasn't a woman.

As I sat in a meeting on another day where, whilst equality was acknowledged, having your bits in the right place was accepted as appropriate humour.

I believe strongly that working in a gender-biased industry is difficult.
And you have to pick your battles.
And focus must be on how you create gender equality.
There is a reality, some will need to retire before the sector can truly move on.
Because lip service doesn't hide behaviour.

And so I try to remain true to what I believe is my reality.
In today's world is that, regardless of status, everybody must earn respect.
It is not an automatic right.

There is a truth, which some discovered thirteen years ago, and is now almost folklore where I work,
I do not want you to hold the door open for me.
Unless you hold it open for everyone.
I will hold the door open.
I see this as good manners.
But it is held open for everyone who I am on the path to the door with.
I do not need preferential treatment because I am a woman.
I may well, and will, decline the offer if I've witnessed the door not being held open for others.

I appreciate good manners.
I know the difference a smile can make.
I know that random acts of kindness can be the making of a week of happiness.

But this should all be gender non-specific.

And of course, there are many other discriminatory factors.
But today's focus is gender.

So, when we are protesting against inappropriate hoarding.
Are we only protesting about the representation of women?
Or are we protesting against the representation of men and women?
Because reality must be two-fold.
Neither men nor women working in construction reflect the images being portrayed.
And if we want equality to exist.
We have to represent everyone.
Feminism is, to me, about equal footing.
And, to me, great feminism is about achieving what has been missing in the past, representing all.
Allowing women to be treated as equals.
And standing up for equality means standing for men's rights as avidly as women's.
Only then can we apply and progress in jobs based on ability and competence.

Maybe the answer is to say that I'm an egalitatianist (I so had to Google the spelling and I'm not sure changing the 'm' for a 't' actually makes it a word!) rather than feminist.
Because feminism does its rounds so much in the press on the whole popularity contest.
But I don't want to miss the point, this is about gender, there is a massive gender divide in some sectors, and being female I feel vaguely qualified and justified in trying to change this.
But never, never at the expense of someone else.
Never walking over someone else's discrimination in priority of my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...