I guess for me I have never known anything different, nor have I put much thought into what gender stereotypes means and how it affects me as a woman. I guess in a small way that comes from a privileged position society placed on me, but also because I had strong influences in my life.
I guess I may have a slightly different viewpoint from a cis female, as I was assigned male at birth, even writing that fills me with a sense of trepidation. The male privilege is not something I feel I experienced or identified with; stereotypes just do not sit well with me. Although it could be considered I did a quite masculine job for most of my life.
But this leaves me with a question, are men as privileged as we think they are and who holds the balance of power in society and why is that?
As I reflect on my life and who were the influential people in my early life, there are a handful of people. My mum was a strong woman and didn’t take any BS from anyone, she worked hard to provide and look after me and my sisters along with my dad and at times would tag team in looking after us while the other worked both had more than one job at times just to make ends meet. My grandparents were also strong influences in my early life as well and it was my grandar who sparked an interest in me and taught me so much, he was the reason I chose the career I did.
So, you know when you get asked as a child what you want to be when you grow up. I always knew what I wanted to be, there was never any doubt, I wanted to follow in my grandar’s footsteps and do electronics. I also knew as well that I wasn’t happy with who I was and wanted to be like my sisters but I could never speak this out loud. Not for many years, well not to be like my sisters but to be a woman, anyway, moving on. I definitely couldn’t say I want to transition and then help others to be themselves and help run a charity. Nope that was never on the cards as a child, funny how life turns out.
This is what I did, starting out in my working life, working for my uncle in his electronics shop as a Saturday job later, on YTS, (youth training scheme) I’m showing my age there and for the younger ones look it up on google. I finished my YTS and started my employment life properly working for a security company fitting security alarms.
Later after a spell of unemployment I re-trained into engineering and first became a panel wirer / development engineer later moving into another job as maintenance engineer where I spent 18 years working in engineering undertaking various roles including management roles. Only leaving there to completely change my career direction and fully support others. But why am I giving you a potted work history for myself, well I guess my last job was the most important one, because this is where I became me, where I started and completed my journey to find out who I was.
You see I never considered doing anything else than what I was doing, I was good at it and I enjoyed it, working in what could be perceived as a male job. Yes, I had to adapt as my body changed. I wasn’t as strong as I once was, I had to use my ingenuity and find an alternative way of completing a task. I was definitely not afraid to get my hands dirty. Quite literally engineering is not a clean job at times! Why shouldn’t I carry on doing this job. Nobody told me I couldn’t.
Was I alone in this thinking? Well, no I have seen many a woman undertaking what could be perceived as a masculine job and does it really matter in the 21st century. No, no it doesn’t. it’s not new neither.
As I said earlier about my influences being my parents. Both working more than one job, just like many other parents at the time, just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads during difficult times. They were supportive of me and my sisters in whatever we wanted to do and instilled a good work ethic in us, but also that we could do whatever we wanted to do in life.
Our dad cared for us while mum went out to work in an evening at the local chippy, in those days the idea that it was a woman’s place to stop at home, look after the kids and home was more prevalent. It never happened in our home, housework was shared and never one persons job.
As you grow older you realise, just what your parents did for you as kids; but also realised that in history gender stereotypes have been, not only broken but smashed. If we look at our local area of South Yorkshire, there are times in history where women have done what would be perceived as masculine jobs, there is a statue in Sheffield to mark the contribution of women in industry throughout the war years.
The Women of Steel statue outside city hall in Sheffield, was hard fought for, only by the determination of the few surviving women, able to tell their stories from that time is there even a statue there today.
This important aspect of history was nearly forgotten about, and only by the women who kept the foundries working while the men were sent off to war, telling their stories has it been remembered. It also shows that women are more than capable of doing a “man’s” job. Something I have seen and done myself in my own career.
Many of these women were expected to go back to a housewife lifestyle after each war, but in fact many women carried on working in factories and inspiring others to do the same. Women were now quite rightly in the workplace, that’s not to say that stopping at home wasn’t work, it was and still is a vital role for people to do, but it is also worth remembering that it is no longer women alone, who stop at home while their partner works.
We have moved on so much from the days when women stopped at home to look after the kids, even mentioning the idea these days quite rightly deserve to be scorned. We are so, so much more. We are engineers, builders, welders, mechanics, electricians, and anything else that takes our fancy and that should be celebrated that we can and do, do these roles, that were once considered gender stereotypically masculine roles. There is nothing stopping us but our own selves, from being an inspiration to someone else by just being ourselves, doing the things that we do to earn a living.
So, to answer my own question are men privileged and who holds the balance of power? Yes, to a certain extent, but as society evolves, as there become more inspirational female role models encouraging the next generation, wearing their femininity proudly whilst breaking the stereotypes. Just as those who have gone before have been the inspiration for us, the balance of power will become more equal, stereotypical jobs will be consigned to history, where it should be and our children of tomorrow will look back in awe at how different things were, just like we did.
Do I regret my career choices? Nope, I’m proud of what I have done and achieved in my career so far, these have given me happiness, sadness and lots of memories over the years and helped to shape me into the person I am today.
Here are just a few inspirational women in history you might like to look up.
Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, Marie Stopes, Boudicca, Amelia Earhart, Queen Elizabeth II just to name a few people and question what would the world look like without them?