The Working Women of the 21st Century

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A Collection of Stories

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to chat with many women in the workforce to learn about the challenges women face in various professions in the 21st century. The aim of these discussions, was to raise awareness about the gender gap, and the inequities women face in the workforce. These stories have been shared with the permission of the women involved. If you would like to participate in this campaign, feel free to reach out at contact@emilyrowsell.com!

Jumping to the Conclusion That I Have Time for Your Sexist Bullshit

“I worked in a restaurant, which of course came with multiple inappropriate looks/comments from customers, but more surprisingly to me came with many unwelcome comments from fellow staff.

I tended bar, and the majority of servers (all except one actually) were women, while the kitchen staff were mostly male (again with the exemption of one person). Part of my job was stocking the bar at the end of the night, and to do so I had to grab a container from the kitchen. It was on a high shelf, so to reach it I had to use something to pull it down. On the occasions I couldn’t find something, I would jump to grab hold of the handle and pull it down with me. That night was a jumping night. When I landed with the bin successfully in hand, I turned to find two 50+ year old men staring at me. “What?” I asked, confused. “If you hand me the bin, I’ll put it back on the shelf so that we can watch you bounce around again.”

Sincerely,

I don’t appreciate the nickname Twin Peaks either.

Only a Pretty Face?

It’s happened multiple times; I will be in company of a client, colleague or acquaintance and they will begin commending my work or recommending by services as a photographer. I will be ecstatic from my rave review about my hard work ethic and the quality of my photos and then the bomb drops ‘and she’s good looking too’. And she’s good looking too? In what way does my physical appearance have any effect  whatsoever on my ability to do my job well? How does my figure impact the composition of my photograph, or, the makeup on my face dictate my ability to work a DSLR?

It was just recently that a friend had posted a photo I’d taken of them on their personal social network, and he had tagged myself to give me credit. I was looking through the nice comments about the photo and the funny ones from their friends and then I saw it “She’s talented and good looking”. Or “Oh my friend said they saw you at work – they called you the hot photographer”. I don’t think men realize how it feels to have your accomplishments over shadowed by the value they’ve placed on your physical appearance. How it feels to work so hard to succeed in your career and to prove your worth, only to have a focus placed on your body. I’m not here to be objectified by you – I’m not here to serve the male gaze. I’m here to do what I love and to produce high-quality photographic images and to provide a service of capturing your memories. Please don’t reduce me to my figure and make me feel as though all I have to offer the world is my looks.

Sincerely,

Not Just a Pretty Face

I’m Worth the Same As You

“My partner and I met at college in our program, therefore we now both practice as physiotherapy assistants in different clinics. I was recently looking to leave my place of employment and asked him if his clinic coordinator had any open positions available. Lo and behold, there was! It was at their Peterborough location, which we didn’t mind because we were looking to move. Anyway, I went to the clinic, had a “working” interview where I spoke to the clinic coordinator and worked with the physiotherapist at the clinic. I liked them and they seemed to like me. So, I went home and awaited their call.

I was so happy when they called to offer me the position. I knew the compensation would be a little less than I was currently making because I knew what my partner made, but I didn’t mind because I liked my potential co-workers.

Then he told me my compensation.

I was speechless for a few seconds. But then I got my voice. He, the clinic coordinator, was offering me less than what my partner made at their clinic. So, I explained to him that I have the same qualifications as my partner, and I also have more experience in clinics that he does since I have been working in one for 7 months, so why was I getting paid less? I know my partner had to negotiate a higher wage at this clinic, so I attempted to do the same with these points. The difference was he got a higher wage, and I wasn’t given a choice. I declined the offer.

In our field, a lot of us get discouraged because of the lack of consistent pay. And now I must worry about the fact that I am a woman, and male employers will think they can get away with offering us less compensation because “we won’t argue as much” as our male counterparts. It’s easy to bring to everyone’s attention when a male co-worker is making lewd comments towards you, but when the employer is so much subtler regarding their sexism, everyone just thinks you’re sensitive or picky. And when there’s no one higher up to report them to, what do you do then?

Sincerely,

I’m Worth the Same as You

The Girl Who Can’t Lift Shit

“While I was in university, I found it hard to find a job for the life of me. So I always asked my friends for help and anytime I asked some of my male friends if they could refer me to their work place for a summer job (mostly manual labour), the typical response I would get would be “you cant do it, it’s manual labour”. I think for a second, more like months/years, I internalized that and really didn’t apply to any of those kinds of jobs.

Fast-forward to my more recent work places, where I worked alongside men. If there was manual lifting to be done, I am frequently told (I think as most females) “ohh let the men handle it”. Well just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I cant lift sh*t, at least let me attempt. I have reached a stage in my life where, honestly being told I can’t do something; especially because I am woman, motivates me to try even harder. I think one thing we lack in society is giving people the ability to try. Don’t pre judge me based on my looks and gender, you never know what I am capable of, assess me based on what I bring to the table.

Sincerely,
The girl that can lift sh*t.

The Woman Who Is Not Yours

“Working with the public is always a bit dicy just in general. People are prone to assuming that you, as a front line worker are a little less than human since your job is to help them. Helping is often seen as a less important job somehow. But often guys, sometimes even old men seem to completely fail to understand that I am actually very much a person. Sometimes they’re just things that they maybe think are comments – you’re beautiful, you look nice today, what did you do last weekend? – that kind of nonsense. But sometimes it’s much worse.

Once a guy in his sixties informed me that I was a beautiful woman, but hastily assured me that I didn’t need to worry, he was too old for me and wouldn’t want to hurt me. Because if it wasn’t for his great and noble gesture of acknowledging our forty year age gap and heroic attempt to protect me, he would possess me. As if my feelings didn’t matter. As if what I wanted wasn’t important. As if I wasn’t in a relationship already. As if I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t any more complex to him than a book or a newspaper. No agency at all. A thing.

Another gentleman saw my wedding ring and said “well, you’re no good to me, you’re married”. Like I don’t matter if I’m not single, my entire worth is enclosed in a marital statue. My relation with a man is all that matters. Without that, I’m no good. If I can’t belong to you, I’m no good. My husband makes me good.

And the worst thing about it all is that you can’t say anything, because you’re at work. You’re powerless to defend your own agency, your self and self-worth because this is your job. To be polite. To be pleasant. To be still and professionally. To be less than.

Obviously I’d prefer that everyone just treated all people who are working with the kind of politeness all humans deserve and a detachment built on the understanding that working people do not have any obligation to tell you anything about their personal life. But at the very least, treat me like you treat all my colleagues – the old ones, the male ones, the managers. If I listen politely to you, it’s because someone is paying me to. It does not mean anything else and it doesn’t entitle you to anything.”

Sincerely, Not Yours


The Girl That Grew a Pair

“I work in strong, male dominated environment.  The ratio back then was about 75% men to 25% women.  The environment was a “boy’s club” and if you played on the hockey team with the big bosses, you normally got transferred to whatever unit you wanted to apply for.

A shift happened within the department and supervisors got moved around.  A posting came up for a position that interested me.  It came down to me and a hockey playing male.  The new supervisor conducting the interview didn’t care about hockey.  I was selected for the position as I was better suited for the spot.  They boys hated that I got picked over hockey player.  They passed judgement rather than seeing what I brought to the table.  It was a physically demanding position and at first I struggled to keep up.   I was in good shape but I did not have the strength that they had.  I worked with 5 men and  they didn’t care to wait for me to catch up.  It justified their reasoning to be angry about me getting the spot over hockey player.  They were mean and every day was a struggle.  I didn’t want to give up though.  I deserved to be there just as much as they did and I was going to prove it.  As the saying goes I had to “grow a pair of balls” if I wanted to play with the boys.

With time my physical fitness increased and I was able to keep up.  Slowly I earned and gained their trust and respect.  I was eventually seen as a team member rather than the “girl”. I spent 2 years in that unit and I have some of the greatest memories from my time there. When I left the unit I was known for the hard work I did and not for being the girl that couldn’t keep up.  It was rewarding and I gained a new level of respect to my name that followed me to other successful positions within my organization.”
Sincerely,

The girl that grew a pair

The Girl Who Can Have 2 Degrees

“As a woman who works as a server to help fund my post secondary education, I am often asked by customers if I go to school. I let them know that I do indeed go to school on campus at the restaurant I work at and some will look at me all surprised as if they were already assuming that I was not capable of going to post secondary education. When I continue to tell them that I am obtaining my second degree from the university, this is when most of them look at me as if I am lying to them. I often feel as though I need to defend myself explaining what I am going to school for and how long I have been in school so that they believe me. Afterwards, most will makes a comment about how proud they are of me or how hard it must be for me to balance both and these comments almost always come from a man. I often want to explain how I enjoy learning and love both the programs I was a part of but I figure at that point they are already on the fence of believing what I am capable of that I just leave it.”

Sincerely,

The Girl Who Can Have Two Degrees

Please Take Me Seriously

“While in College in a male dominated field, many classmates felt it was their place to constantly remind me of my gender. As the biggest graduating class of females (six of us graduated) we stuck together to navigate the unforgiving profession.

I remember a classmate who felt it was okay to constantly touch me in class. He would touch my hair and my shoulders and make ridiculous remarks. I tired my best to ignore it, until the day I confronted him. To a class full of males telling me, I should expect that as a woman in this field. I did my best to keep quiet throughout the program, not wanting to bring the issue to a professor.
Upon graduation the classmate was aware of my distaste for him so we graduated with a mutual dislike for each other. He felt as if I was constantly overreacting and because of this I felt violated and upset. I was lucky to get the job I wanted straight out of College, hoping all of this was in the past. I love my job and what I do, until one day in a meeting it was brought up that we were looking for new hires. The name I was dreading came right back up. I tired to contain my emotions and keep my composure. I knew this was too much and I went to my boss and told the entire story. I’m not sure what I was expecting to do; I just knew I couldn’t work with him. I was met with “that’s what happens in this profession. You think you can go to your next boss and tell him something like this? He would laugh and you would be out of a job”. I was crushed. I left almost in tears, no one takes this seriously.

To follow up no new hires yet, he is still being considered. I need to figure out if the profession I love is worth going though this for the rest of my life.”

Sincerely,

Please Take Me Seriously

One Voice, No Regrets

“As a young woman aspiring to discover my potential, I found that having a job since the age of 16 has helped me to obtain necessary skills for post-secondary education and a future career. These skills include holding leadership roles, taking on responsibilities and managing them properly, communicating with fellow employees to complete tasks, and staying organized. Though I do not regret any of the jobs I have worked over the years, I have come to realize that the working world can get nasty.

Going back to the age of 17, I got a job as a part-time cashier at Pizza Pizza  through a friend of my older sister’s. This was the first REAL job I received, since the jobs as a babysitter and doing karate instruction were once in a while occasions. I figured out very quickly how stressful a job in the fast food industry can get, and I messed up a lot; yet, I strived to do my best every shift and showed my co-workers and bosses that I was capable of holding the job. Unfortunately, I was the only female worker in the restaurant, as there was only one cashier per shift and all the cooks and delivery staff are all males.

As the months went on, I recognized that the way the cooks were treating me has made me very uncomfortable and unsafe; from the verbal harassment and cussing, to the gossip and rule breaking of protocols at the workplace. I was objectified, sexualized, and harassed by these co-workers and due to their comments, I didn’t have the confidence or boldness to say anything to my bosses until it got to the point where I would leave the workplace in tears every shift. It took the advice of my mom to finally gather the courage to tell my bosses about the situation and I decided to quit the job at that point.

Through this experience, I realized how important equality in terms of the respect and decency that should take place for both genders. My experience seems horrible, yet I am sure there are many more women out there who have gone through so much worse than I did! It infuriates me just how women become objectified and are expected to do “certain jobs” opposed to a male because of their gender. This reality may not change for a long time or ever; however, women need to take the first step to realize they have a voice too and are able to stand their ground independently! It is also the responsibility of the bosses at these companies to look out for their employees and become a person their employees can be comfortable going to for support and advocacy. It’s time change happens in the workplace, no matter the salary.”

Sincerely,

One voice, no regrets

This is The World for the Working Woman

‘My experience in the workplace has had its ups and downs being a woman. I worked at a private golf club for 6 years of my life; from the time I was 16-21. The atmosphere in a private gold club includes entitlement, and more specifically male entitlement. I worked in the back shop (cleaning clubs and maintaining the member’s gold bags) for 3 years and worked in the proshop (selling merchandise and answering phone calls and booking tee times) for 2. In the proshop I noticed early on that the women stayed inside with the merchandise and the men went outside to do marshalling, and maintaining the flow of the first tee. There have been countless times, that I can remember where my body was discussed from the male members of the golf club, or I was asked for my number. I had one member, young adult around 24 (I was 17/18 at the time) who had become obsessed with me, who would come into the area I worked to look at our schedule to see when I was working and he would only come golfing during these times. He also showed up at my house a couple of times unannounced. However, it wasn’t just the young members that would comment on my body, or my ‘work ethic,’ in a sexual way. Older members would constantly ask for my number, I would say, “I am too young for you,” as I am an employee so I still have to be respectful, and they would counter with “Oh honey, you are just my type.” Again, being an employee it was an unwritten expectation that I would not report this type of behavior as they were the people with the money who kept me in a job.

However, it wasn’t just the members who harassed me at work, the one time I did report was because of another staff member. The head chef at this golf club would come down the pro shop where I worked (which had nothing to do with food!) and would grab my hands and kiss them, would comment on my ass as I walked away. One day he followed me out to the parking lot hounding me for my number; I might add here, he was married! All the while, in all these examples I am providing, I always said no thank you. When he grabbed my hand and kissed it, “no thank you,” when he commented on my body, “no thank you,” when he asked for my number, “no thank you.” Thus, I reported it to my boss, whose reply was, “do you want me to talk to him.” This is when I realized there was no formal policy at the club for this type of thing. It went to the general manager and our human resources person. A week later, after I reported I got called into a meeting with the GM and our HR guy, who sat me down and told me that they spoke with him, and that he was denying everything I said he had done. They also told him who had complained! So when I had asked at the beginning to keep it anonymous, they did not even consider it, they had no care for my identity, for my respect in the workplace. This golf club was a small community; it would have gotten around. One of my senior co-workers, who is a female golf pro, pulled me aside and said to me, “do you know what you are doing to his career, his family?” I figured she would be someone who would understand why I reported as she has experienced the same thing before. I felt guilty for even saying anything. Was it such a big deal? Did it really matter that I felt extremely uncomfortable every time he came into the proshop? Did it really matter that he constantly commented on my body in a sexual way? Did it really matter that he would kiss my hands when I said no? Did it really matter that he would harass me for my number? These were all the thoughts I had after reporting, and after he got a slap on the wrist.

There was no policy or formal procedure from this golf club in how to handle these scenarios. Why? In my opinion these men grew up in a culture where they were privileged enough to never experience sexual harassment. Also, they work in an industry where it really counts to be man and women really are second class citizens. As women still are not allowed onto certain golf courses in the world. It is all male entitlement. The entitlement to comment on my body, the entitlement to get away with it because you have money or you are the head chief and are liked by the higher ups. I am sure I am not the only woman at this golf club to experience this. It is just sad that men feel that my body is here for them to judge or touch. That my privacy is not considered or respected.

Sincerely,

This is the World for a Working Woman