My consistent readers will recognize most of this blog from last year. I’m reposting because I have been thinking about this more since I have started my internship in the line maintenance department of a major airline. I’m one of a very few women in the department, and sometimes I wonder if I should play down my gender. But, then I think … I can afford to take some risks, so I’m going to lead the charge for a new paradigm: people should be assessed on their ability to do the job at hand, not on whether they fit the stereotype associated with the job.
The topic came up last year when we were getting ready to go to the Aerospace Maintenance Competition for the first time. We were talking about what color our team shirts should be. Someone (maybe me, I can’t remember) suggested pink. Someone else then suggested that pink is a bad idea because we’re in a male-dominated industry and if we wear pink they might not take us seriously.
I say bollocks to that. Well, not really, because I don’t actually say bollocks (though now that I think of it, I might start to), but I do say piffle, phooey, bullsh**, horse hockey, and, simply, no.
As long as we believe that men own this space exclusively, we’ll continue to think we need to ask permission to work in it. If we think we need to ask permission, then we’ll worry about things like whether our pink shirts make us look too feminine, or somehow less credible as mechanics.
I want a different paradigm: we’re good at what we do and we’re part of a world that we’re entitled to be a part of. We don’t need to ask permission and we don’t need to be inauthentic in order to be taken seriously. There is no logical reason why femininity and skill as a mechanic cannot exist at the same time in the same person.
I’ve been in male-dominated professions for most of my working life – mostly because the money was always better (which is a topic for another post). And, having spent all that time working among men, I’ll tell you one thing – I don’t see men asking permission to do the work they want to do. I don’t see them worrying that their polo shirt might make them look too butch to throw together a powerpoint presentation. I see them just getting in there and doing the work they want to do, without apology.
So, if you like pink, and you think that to be taken seriously, you need to swap a beloved bubblegum, or fuschia, or coral, or salmon shirt for a drab gray one, I would suggest another tactic. Keep the pink shirt, and go forth without apology. Go forth and claim your pink-clad space.