"You don't belong"
"You can't do it"
"You're not strong enough"
"You should do something else"
"You are crazy"
"You are making bad decisions"....

It's 2014....and women are still facing these messages when they act outside of "traditional" roles....

I resigned from a career in corporate America because quite frankly it didn't pay the bills. I am seeking an apprenticeship that will start me at AT LEAST $5 dollars an hour more than I was making, with better benefits, an ideal work schedule, and union membership.

And yet just about everyone in my LIFE is telling me the messages above...no one believes in me. It's insulting! Yes I'm upset and ranting a bit, so please forgive and bear with me here....

I am not alone. See here:


Although role models are scarce, training is hard to find and sexism is rampant, determined women are finding professional success and satisfaction in the skilled trades: construction, sheet metal working, welding, pipefitting - and more.
When Leah Rambo became a sheet metal worker in 1988, she never imagined that she'd one day run the apprenticeship program for Local 38 of the Sheet Metal Air and Rail Transportation Union. But a little more than a year ago, she became one of the highest-ranking women in the US labor movement, taking the helm of a hands-on, 4 1/2-year training program for sheet metal workers in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties.
This year, the program has 306 students, eight percent of them female.
"The challenge is not only to get women enrolled," Rambo says. "If you promote trades work to women, and they see other women doing the jobs, a lot will want in. The bigger challenge is improving the conditions so they stay in the field. Most women experience discrimination or harassment. As a matter of fact, when you are a woman, nobody - not the bosses and not your co-workers - sees your color. Your gender is much more important than your ethnicity or race. The sexism is not as bad as it was, but it is always an issue. Women are still hit on, still don't get the same promotion opportunities and still get laid off more frequently than men."
Sadly, she says, skepticism about female competence remains endemic. "Women have to be much better at what they do than men. They can't be average. In addition, they have to figure out how to do the job while dealing with the male ego. If you come across as not taking any crap, the men tend to become threatened. On the other hand, if you take their crap, it gets worse and worse. Each woman needs to find a way to tell the men that she's there to work and support herself, that she's on the job for the same reasons they are."
As Rambo speaks, her passion for work collides with her exasperation over the misogyny that pervades the field. Nonetheless, it is clear that she loves being a maverick and role model. She's proud, she says, that three New York-area apprenticeship programs are now woman-headed - carpenters, masons, and sheet metal workers - normalizing the idea that women not only have a place in the trades, but are also central players in unions that, until recently, worked hard to keep them out.
Still, it is not surprising that progress in achieving gender equity has been uneven. According to a June 2012 report published by Catalyst, a 50-year-old nonprofit research group that promotes expanded opportunities for women, women now comprise 46.6 percent of the US labor force. Although the majority are concentrated in teaching, nursing and the service industries, they have penetrated several previously male bastions, including computer programming, law and pharmacy.
This is heartening, of course. Nonetheless, when it comes to the skilled trades, the number of women remains miniscule and 48 years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave women the right to enter apprenticeships, and 34 years after Executive Order 11246 determined that women should be given at least 6.9 percent of all working hours on federally-funded construction projects, they are nowhere near parity with their blue-collar and hard-hatted brothers. Indeed, The Department of Labor Women's Bureau reports that women constitute 7.9 percent of painters; 5.4 percent of welders, solderers and braziers; 4 percent of sheet metal workers; 3.9 percent of machinists; 2 percent of HVAC specialists; 1.5 percent of pipe layers, pipe fitters and plumbers; 1.4 percent of carpenters; and 1 percent of roofers and electricians.
Jane LaTour, author of a 2008 book called "Sisters in the Brotherhoods," attributes the low numbers to inadequate access to employment and training. "As long as women can't reach critical mass in these jobs, as long as they are largely invisible, things will remain much as they are," she wrote in an email. "Even though unions are doing a much better job in 2012, these great opportunities are still a well-kept secret from most young women."
While groups like New York City's Nontraditional Employment for Women - one of the country's oldest pre-apprenticeship programs for women interested in learning about careers in the trades - visit high schools and attend community events to publicize the availability of free, six-week classes to prepare them for union internships - the absence of visible role models means that neither students nor job-seekers automatically think of entering the skilled trades when they're envisioning their futures. Likewise, school guidance counselors rarely present apprenticeships as a career choice, despite the fact that skilled work can pay between $20 and $80 an hour.
Once more, you can blame sexism. Last June, Dr. Marc Bendrick, an employment economist, dubbed construction "the industry that time forgot" in testimony before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  "Under-representation [of women] spans the skill spectrum from entry-level laborer and helper occupations, to well-paid skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers," he said.
Among the culprits: widely-accepted stereotypes about women's inability to do heavy lifting and use machinery and tools; the outdated notion that men deserve higher pay and more hours because they have families to support; and a tolerance for sexual innuendo, homophobia and outright sexual harassment in the workplace.

......So my question: When is it going to stop? When will (if ever) women be able to go to work to support their families however they choose?

If I had chosen instead to become a stripper (which I did consider) I would have received similar (or worse) opposition, but I am a single mom, and I decided to do this instead. To make an honest living for a hard day's work.

If I had stayed in corporate America and not making it I financially, I would have been likely supported, despite living in poverty and the government.

Fuck that!

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You made a decision about your own career, as is your right to do. You are happy with that decision and if in the future, if you are not, you can change your mind and try something else. The people with the negative attitudes towards you are not on your side. They probably were not there for you when you were considering your choices.

Tell them to butt out if they have nothing constructive to say to you. All that matters is that you are happy with your decision. There will always be people that don’t want to see others improve themselves or increase their income. So stick to your guns and get your qualification. Then listen to them tell you how they supported you all along and how they knew you would do it. They will be two-faced about it.Their opinions are not important so don’t let them upset you. Just ignore them and let them stew in their own bitterness. I know it is not always that simple but really they are the ones with the problem.

Just keep in mind the rewards you will gain from completing the apprenticeship and where you could be in a years’ time.  Leave the negative attitudes with the negative people. Let them built a bridge and get over themselves.

We believe in you, Belle  

Hi Belle, long time no see... Sorry to hear that this is still an issue in the western world and sorry again to hear that it is affecting you personally.

When is it going to stop?

I'd say in 3 or 4 generations. Each generation seems to be more progressive than the last.

Good luck in your new trade!

I'm in Australia and I suspect we have the same issue... I know our universities are strongly pushing for school girls to move into STEM fields. I'm not sure about trades... they are dominated by very blokey men.

I'm gonna just leave this here....

You know we support you Belle. You can do absolutely anything, and all those people who say you can't should be ashamed of themselves. You only have one life to live, and it's far too short to spend it shying away from things you know are best for you because somebody else tried to scare you.

With the benefits you describe, taking this job seems like an obvious choice. And obviously you are strong enough. You are capable. You are doing the right thing.

Aw thanks. :D

One thing I should have said in that original post: You are strong, you are capable, you are doing the right thing, and you belong here.

You belong anywhere that you are. And nobody can convince you otherwise.

I love to hear you say this. Do what you want! Live your life to the measure of your own expectations. I swear you could be a feminist. Just sayin.

Haven't had a chance to read anything except your original post (before the quote). I have worked in healthcare my entire life and my colleagues and bosses have been predominately women. Much of the attitude you are experiencing is ignorance from lack of familiarity. Not many men out there have worked with strong women or encountered them in their jobs. I remember a single mom some decades ago who presented in my ER with a sick child. She was petite, cute as a button, and worked as a welder. I was buff and in my prime. I had no doubt that if any man less than twice my size had threatened her or her child she would have effortlessly ripped both of his arms out. I have since encountered numerous women who have been successfully employed in the trades.  Many of them were real babes. All of them commanded respect.

Raw physical strength is not as important as endurance. I did some masonry with my father in HS. I was the pillsbury dough boy back then. You're not lifting walls, just concrete blocks. Once you get trained and are working in your groove, you'll probably outshine most of your beer-bellied co-workers. Which, of course, is the real reason you're getting so much push-back.

Out of town for a week, so my response is late. It was hot and dirty and really tore up my hands (wear gloves). Hard to separate the work experience from my boss (my father), but I do remember a certain sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as the walls slowly rose around us. By the end of the summer I went from dough-boy to ....well...not so doughy.

When is it going to stop? When will (if ever) women be able to go to work to support their families however they choose?

Well obviously, I don’t have any experience about work, working conditions and discrimination in companies; but because I study sociology, we often talk about misogyny as it is a very recurring, interesting and unfortunately a very actual topic. We’ve seen different theories about the origin and the mechanisms of sexism, but also the evolution of the situation since 1950. (I personally really enjoyed “Masculine Domination” by Pierre Bourdieu, even I we can easily criticize some parts of this book) In the first place, there’s “objective improvements” like the increasing proportion of women in politics(still not enough but let’s say it’s better than nothing), but also a change of mentalities, each generation being more tolerant to women than the last one. I think misogyny will slowly but inevitably disappear (well at least in “occidental” countries).

I now have to say that I really admire brave women like you; and that I wish you good luck with your research! 

I love sociology too. I thought about going into it, but I didn't see myself as a researcher or social worker. 

It will change as long as we push the boundaries. It won't happen tomorrow but your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look back at our times with disbelief. 


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