Some friends on Facebook issued a challenge to those identifying as female to give examples of “nevertheless she persisted” stories from their lives
I went on to become a journeyman operator and was proud to be a Union Maid.
I became an apprentice operating engineer and learned how to build roads and bridges using heavy equipment: large rollers, dozers, blades, backhoes, cranes, etc. My first couple of days a couple of old dudes on the job site said I should leave, that women shouldn’t be there. I just stared at them without reacting. They had fears that I was just hired as a minority and would spend the day riding around in the bosses pick up, holding his clipboard for him, taking up a job. But I showed up in proper work clothes and went to work like any other apprentice.
I think any other guys that may have been afraid but just not speaking out began to realize that their fears were unfounded.There may have even been some weird gallantry where they actually thought conditions were too rough for ladies. Perhaps they didn’t want to see the boys club broken up and they would have to stop cursing and behave better in mixed company. The younger men were not really too concerned by that and I think it was observed, perhaps even absorbed where changing boundaries could/should be. I tried to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. I didn’t want to get all belligerent and try to school them. I wanted them to teach me everything they could and quite frankly, there were lots of dangerous situations where we all needed to look out for one another.
I went on to work at that for several years. When the head of the apprenticeship department came out to check up on me the boss said, “Hell, she’s as good as any I got,” and coworkers reported I was “easy to get along with,” high praise in that world. I went on to become a journeyman operator and was proud to be a Union Maid. Although I didn’t stick with that long term for a career I hope I did some important pioneering work helping pave the way for other female apprentices who followed after.
Brava! I love the way you approached this tale, not from the POV of your own trepidations but from those of the men, certainly the ones who feared they had the most to lose. Oh, and Constance, I have a back yard that could use a little terracing.
Right on, sistah!
Kudos to you for breaking that barrier and, yes, persisting. I hope you found a photo of yourself in those “proper work clothes” and tweeted it to our commander in chief.
Great story of persistence and not being intimidated! Interesting choice on your part and you certainly made the most of it. Well done.
Yes! Give those little girls in your life toy backhoes along with the sparkle nail polish. Obviously we can handle both.
Constance, I really enjoyed this story and they way you captured the irony in the situation. Your good attitude and behavior were the best way you could have chosen to behave in the situation you were in at that time. Thanks for sharing this encouraging story.
Love this story! Good for you for choosing that career path and staying with it for several years despite being made to feel unwelcome initially. Now you’ve got the song “Union Maid” running through my head. “Oh you can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union…”
With proper inducement *I* could produce a photo of you in a hardhat.. To be perfectly honest the family had mixed feelings at the time – overwhelming pride topped with a soupcon of worry about this challenging choice. You effectively and graciously put us in our places, just like you did with your coworkers, by your strong example.