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.”
Nope. Not me. But it may as well be.
[Image credit: bangordailynews.com]