It's not a "man's job", it's my job

Submitted by Janine on Sat, 09/24/2005 - 21:04

Thoughts from women railway workers (collected from workmates and RMT women's conference) ...

  • "Sometimes, you feel like you're on trial for the entire female sex. If a bloke makes a mistake, it's 'Fred's having a bad day', but if I do, it's 'Women can't do the job'."
  • "I really enjoy my job, and I don't complain very often. But when I had just one little grumble, a male colleague told me that if women don't like it working on the railway, we can always leave."
  • "In my company, management often call women for promotion interviews, even if they have no intention of giving you the job, just so it looks like they are giving you a fair go."
  • "Even in the 21st century, some jobs are still seen as 'women's job's', some as 'men's jobs'."
  • "This job really suits me now, but I'm worried about when I have kids in the future. How will I be able to balance the shiftwork with parenthood?"
  • "Lots of women feel that we have to work that much harder to prove ourselves."
  • "If a woman gets a promotion above a man, there's always someone who will say that she got it because she's a woman. Most men can accept it, but you can bet that there will be some bloke who will ignore the fact that we have to pass exactly the same tests as men, and kid himself that he was a victim of sexism. It's not fair to put down a woman's achievements like that."
  • "It would be better if more women worked in traditionally 'male jobs', such as in the transport industry. But from the day they are born, kids are told that trains are boys' toys, and dolls are girls' toys, so it's hardly surprising that 18 years later, fewer young women than young men apply to work in this industry."
  • "There are not nearly as many women managers as men. So if you have, say, a women's health problem that you need to talk to your employer about, you can be put in a very awkward position. It's hard enough having to talk about stuff like the menopause or fibroids, but who wants to discuss them with a male manager? Not me."
  • "My partner works for the same company as me. I'm a person in my own right, but loads of people refer to me as Stan's wife, which makes me furious. How many people refer to Stan as my husband? Not many, I bet."
  • "We all know that there are lots of safety problems in our industry. We should all - men and women - make more of a fuss about them. But sometimes when a woman complains, management subtlely treat you like you're a weak female who can not cope with the demands of the work. And in the same way, some men are unwilling to make a stand, in case someone suggests that they are a wimp, or not a real man. What nonsense."
  • "With more and more women working on the operational side of the transport industry, you'd think that the employers would have managed to get a uniform that is comfortable and appropriate, and doesn't make you look like a mannequin or a figure of fun. But no."
  • "I'm entitled to do a day's work without being made to feel uncomfortable. I don't see why I can't sit down and have my lunch in the mess room without being surrounded by pictures of naked women, or have porn circulated round my workplace by e-mail. Stop it."
  • "Some people say that if I don't like sexist comments, then I should say something. But if I did that every time, I'd spend the whole day rowing with my workmates. Anyway, why should it have to be me that says something? Men can object to sexism too."
  • "It makes me laugh when men swear in front of me and then hastily apologise for it. But it annoys me too. I can eff and blind with the best of them, but some men don't like swearing. So check with individuals how they feel about it, rather than assuming that all men swear and all women find it offensive."
  • "It's good to see the union take up these issues. But women often do not get the level of support we need. If we have a problem with sexism at work, we don't want to face similar sexism in the union."
  • "If it's still a 'man's job', then it's also still a 'man's union'. I want male union officials to be more aware of women's issues, to be more welcoming to women at branch meetings, and to challenge their male colleagues if they make sexist comments."
  • "When you have issues or problems at work, the union is the place to turn. It can sometimes seem remote, and going to a meeting for the first time can be daunting, especially if you don't know the people and the jargon but everyone else seems to! Women can be put off not just by sexism, but by bureaucracy. But we should persevere, because it's our union too!"