Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

It happened again this morning. I was leaving the bridgetender house at the end of the shift, wearing my extremely unattractive uniform and safety vest, and someone drove by and looked at me in shock. Fashion police? I doubt it. For some reason some people don’t expect women to be bridgetenders, as if it takes a certain type of genitalia to open and close a drawbridge. (If so, I haven’t gotten the memo.)

This isn’t the first job in which I’ve found myself in the minority. I used to work for the Florida Department of Transportation. I was a Maintenance Management Systems Engineer, which means I spent a great deal of time in the field doing crew studies to make sure that work crews were properly accounting for their use of materials such as asphalt, for example, and were accurately recording their time and equipment use so that we could efficiently budget for similar jobs in the future. I was highly visible to the public, out there on these testosterone-infused work sites with my hardhat on, clipboard in hand. And at the time I had very long hair. More than once I saw people swerve their cars or tap their brakes.

For the most part these expressions of shock amused me, but they also made me kind of sad. Why is it so hard to believe a woman can do these types of jobs? I might understand it if I were required to lift 100 pounds up over my head 20 times a day, or wade into a crowd of fighting Hells Angels and start knocking heads together, but this was a job that required intelligence, organization, and standard physical ability, all of which I have.

The fact is, some people just can’t be convinced that women are capable of holding nontraditional positions, so there’s not much I can do to change their minds. What I can do is continue to put myself out there. The more I’m seen, the more people will get used to seeing me and other women like me.

Sometimes when I’m out there in my safety vest, I’ll see a little girl in the back seat of one of the cars that’s driving by. When that happens, I always smile and wave, and I think, “See me, girl, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

women2.jpg

Nope. Not me. But it may as well be.

[Image credit: bangordailynews.com]

12 thoughts on “Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

  1. Carole

    Oh, I Love this one. I have worked for 40 of my 70+ years (time out for babies and such). After my stint as a line-cord operator at Southern Bell, I was offered a Line Test position, (Working on telephone pole lines or on the testing of equipment. My Husband at the times would not let me accept it since I would have been the only woman among many men.
    There was nothing I would not volunteer for, nor challange I would not accept. I was told a a very young age about the Rosie the Riviter era, and how women built cars and planes and probably the bombs and ammunition, while our men fought to keep us safe, but gave up their jobs when they came home. Many famous women continued to break through that glass ceiling. Pancho Barnes and Amelia Airhart, A woman designed the computer syatem for the military and on and on. But in shcool, I could not submit a term paper on becoming a Commercial Pilot, Doctor or FBI Agent.
    I continued to push, at factories and businesses, and made small dents. At 63 I was driving an order-picker and fork truck, and I was very good at it. I always worked or added to my responsibiities so no one woud be able to say “See I told you a woman couldn’t do it.” I never miss an opportunity to mentio that I have a friend that is a Bridge Tender or Road Worker, or Semi-Driver. Keep challenging yourselves “Girls”. A woman is now in charge of the biggest auto company in the world and who knows in a few years there may be a woman holding office in the most powerful position in the world. Now to tackle age discrimination. I can still work circles around people half my age. I was recently told I could not sit in an Exit Isle seat, but a 15 year old boy could. Pffft! I can lift a #50 sack of feed. Not all day long to be sure, but I COULD open that door.

    1. You are my hero. 🙂

      But doesn’t it seem silly that this even has to be an issue? I mean, what is it about the male gender that makes people assume they’re more capable? I don’t get it.

      My sister was in the Air Force for 21 years. She retired a Master Sergeant. The smartest thing she ever did was pretend she couldn’t type well. If they thought she could type, she said, they’d have given her all the admin work while the men got to do the “real” work. So she would take two hours to type a paragraph, even though at home she could type 60 wpm.

      1. Carole

        How great that we are who we are and continue to seek out ways to make ourselves grow. Someday there will be no more “The First Black, The First Gay, The First Woman, The First Whatever, then we can just be another person doing their job the best they can. And maybe equality will actually be achieved.

      2. Carole

        How great that we are who we are and continue to seek out ways to make ourselves grow. Someday there will be no more “The First Black, The First Gay, The First Woman, The First Whatever, then we can just be another person doing their job the best they can. And maybe
        equality will actually be achieved.

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