I like this poster for many reasons, which I’ll get to in a sec.
A recent article in the Toronto Star exposed some of the sexism that happens to female auto service technicians. The local Toyota dealership employs four female technicians and they shared some of their experiences with discrimination at work. The author, Catherine Porter, also writes that the dealership has been positively affected by the women techs. “Manager Quaison Parris says foul language has decreased. Veteran mechanic Manny Neves says the atmosphere is friendlier.” Theories of why there aren’t women in the trade are also in the article.
I’m happy that these experiences were written about so it’s out in the open, because they’re a reality. It’s being recognized that this stuff does happen and that organizations are changing to address discrimination
The truth is that discrimination exists across various workplaces, sexism is not limited to those who work in male-dominated places as it quite often happens in female-dominated jobs too. From my experience in the corporate world, harassment and discrimination is also there. Just look at how many policies and procedures the Human Resources Department rolls out and you can tell that it’s an issue they’re trying to eliminate.
Here’s how the author ends it though:
Before I drive away, Parris tells me some male customers get incensed when they see a woman lift up the hood of their car. “I tell them, ‘That woman will do a better job than a man,’” he says. More than half his customers are women.
So why don’t we demand that a woman work on our cars? That’s what I plan to do from now on.
I just wonder how effective this talk of ‘women can do it better than a man’ or ‘I’m demanding that a woman work on my car’ is in terms of promoting a culture that is respectful of both genders. I mean, that’s reverse discrimination, no? Shouldn’t the demand as a customer be that you want a competent, qualified, and skilled individual to work on your car? I mean, you can demand that a woman or man work on your car (if all you’re looking for is their gender) but there’s no guarantee that they’re skilled. Absolutely, you should demand that a particular female tech work on your car because you know she’s skilled. I’m assuming that’s what the journalist meant as opposed to demanding “…that a woman work…” on her car.
So why do I like that WWII poster? Because as it says, we can do it. Not we can do it better. Just simply we can do it, we can do it too… an encouragement that doesn’t put down others. For a manager like Toyota’s Parris, I’m sure he meant well with how he responded to the incensed male customers. I’m sure he meant: that particular woman technician will do a great job. She could probably fix a car better than many men. But saying that she will do a better job than a man is taking a shot at all men. Maybe she’s better than the men that Parris knows.
The truth is that there are a lot of great guys in the trade who will mentor and teach someone, regardless of their gender. Just as there are a lot of great women in the trade who would do the same. Sure you get your share of bad apples. But to respond to sexism with reverse discrimination puts the genders in an endless battle and it’s a response that requires careful consideration.
*This blog post was previously published on the Yummy Mummy Club website*