Women in trade

A trade is generally a guy thing. That’s not me being sexist, that’s me getting a conclusion from people asking if that girl I knew is a lesbian because she has to wear a hardhat to work, the general mention that if I didn’t study I would end up dancing on tables, but never making them and the knowledge that there is one single female human in City of Glasgow College’s engineering department.

At least that what I’m assuming from what I saw. I didn’t go inspecting every person I met in the engineering department, declaring they drop their jumpsuits, but there was only one person with make-up on, only one person with her nails done. I think that’s proof enough.

Caera Kimmitt is one of two inhabitants of the girl’s student bathroom in the engineering department. When we were introduced to her we were in this huge manky room that looked like the inside of the Titanic. Metal so big and old it’s not worth trying to dust, everything still and yet a deafening noise coming from the back of the room, the windows so high they become pointless. And out of that, stepped Caera. Hair tied away but well looked after, her nails still unchipped from the party she’d just woke up from, the click of her heel hidden by her smudged white jumpsuit.

The college course alternates between time in the campus workshop and time at sea. Like most of the other students in her department, the plan for Caera is to complete her college course and go on to work on a ship someday, be that with the chubby lazy tourists with their kids that seem to be on ecstasy in the cruise industry or amongst the jaunty sailor boys of the navy is up to her. Apparently her eyes are on the cruises. (I think that’s so she can sneak a cocktail below deck…!)

“So what do you do in the workshop?”

“Filing mostly… You’re given like three bits of metal and you’ve got to make sure it’s all square and cut it and we make a wee wheel and it’s pretty cool in the end … Deck’s a wee bit more boring because it’s data and stuff”

Now I wasn’t sure what to expect from the men around the engineering floor when me and my notepad walked in, so I can imagine her head. When me with two other young women and an adult female entered, heads turned like a meerkat’s. I don’t want to say they’re all perves but that is the stereotype of men, so I guessed either they liked what they saw or they were simply confused and assumed we’d got lost and ended up in the wrong room – or maybe a little of both.

Of course, maybe being the only female in a room full of guys can be rewarding? Not that way! Get your head out the gutter.

“It was quite daunting at first with obviously, me being the only girl, but it wasn’t that bad. We all look after each other so even when we go out of college they all kind of, I’ve noticed them all stand around if there’s someone kinda looking a bit, you know, shifty they’ll get protective.”

In the time it took the three of us to get a quick lap around the engineering floor, the three of us girls were saying the same thing.

“We should’ve chose a trade”

And why didn’t this occur to any of us when we were leaving high school wondering what to do with our Highers in English or maths or whatever that had to be directly applied to our respective careers we were obviously going to find the second we walked out the gates? It seemed to occur to many of the males of my high school, according to Facebook anyway. So why not us?

Is it the wolf whistles or the banter? The ugly outfit? Society’s image of a strong woman not really fitting in with a hard hat? I’d like to think today’s women aren’t so shallow or weak to let any of these issues bother them.

The respective trade for women seems to be beauty, but many guys are infiltrating that now. How come they’re allowed?

For me, it just never occurred to me. Nowadays that seems stupid. In “our economic climate” the obvious thing to do would be to get a long standing job. That means no McDonalds job for the time being but no making-a-name-for-yourself career either, because that takes time, money and energy a lot of us don’t have the pleasure of having – usually getting nothing out of it either.

Engineering is a step between trade and career: doesn’t take as much money or time to get there and gives a lot more back. So surely the image of the idea is outweighted by the prospects.

So what are we waiting for? Grab the big girl boots!

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