Growing up I never really accepted that there were blue jobs and pink jobs.
While I knew about the traditional stereotypes as far as male and female job roles, I didn't really see that as a barrier for myself. I just thought "I want to do that, so I'm gonna go do it.". I was lucky enough to have parents who always told me I should do what made me happy, so when I announced I was quitting my degree because I wanted to become a car mechanic, they didn't try and put me off because it was a male-dominated profession.
I don't think cars were a passion for me as such; I enjoyed hanging around with my best friend while he modded his Nova back in the 90's, but for me I think becoming an apprentice vehicle technician was a way to indulge my passion for taking things apart and putting them back together again. I also think I got a kick from being the first and only woman in that workplace, to a certain degree.
I've read some awful tales of abuse on this thread, of women getting sent creepy messages and unsolicited judgement based on everything from their looks to their perceived lack of ability in the field. Why is it that so often a woman needs to be twice as good as a man at her job, just to be considered equal?
When I was a mechanic I got a lot of support from guys who had to adjust to a very new and alien situation that they hadn't ever been in before, but they realised I wasn't a threat and considered that it could be their niece or daughter in my place. Those men gave me the respect I deserved, which is all I ever wanted. I never wanted to be treated different based on my gender because I never saw it having any bearing on how I did my job.
I also, from day 1, took a lot of shit.
There are at least 2 sides to every story right?
- Pretty much in the first week, a guy who should have known better got right up in my face and said "You're in a man's world now, love.". I swore at him, walked off and that was about all we said to one another over the next 10 years. At least we knew where we both stood.
- You can't talk to a guy without wanting to make out with him of course, so before too long there was gossip that I had basically been around with every man in the place. There were a few of them, I only wish I had that much stamina.
- There were a lot of sexist comments and jokes.
- We often went to events like car shows and track days to provide support for the vehicles. I was frequently asked if I was "a pit bunny", valeter, sales girl, or if I was just getting a day out of the office.
- One of my college lecturers didn't know how to handle having a 20-something woman on his course, so he used to call me out in front of all the 16 and 17 year old boys in the class.
I heard that plenty happened behind my back too but what you don't know can't hurt you I guess, so I didn't dwell much on that.
Fast forward quite a few years and I found myself ready to transition into a new career. I only took the decision to move into tech within the last couple of years and I've not been getting paid to do it for long, so personally I haven't been treated badly (at least not to my face). On the contrary its been a really positive experience and feels like there's never been a better time for a woman to get into tech.
So while I have seemingly swapped one male-dominated industry for another, if I do encounter some negativity based on my gender, I shall, in solidarity for my sisters just trying to do something they want to (because why shouldn't anyone?) code, nevertheless. Don't let me down, tech!