I’ve been in the same job for the last 34 years and the same industry for 48. Like most businesses, mine is ever- changing, in terms of male/female roles, products and technology.
When I entered this business I was eighteen years old and fresh out (within a few months) of high school. I didn’t know jack about anything but I was not on my way to college and needed a job. My mother pressured me towards employment a week after spending my summer delivering the Philadelphia Bulletin for which I received no pay. My brother and I helped my parents with their 2 routes and the minute they quit my mother was pushing me to get a real job and in-turn, pay rent while living at home with my six siblings.
What I learned from that paper route pre-employment experience, was that cars broke down frequently in the middle of nowhere (we went through two cars during that time) and that people with huge homes often didn’t have enough money to pay their paper bill. Many times mom came away from their homes with pennies, nickels and dimes as payment. It was our job to collect it and our job to pay for our papers we delivered. Whatever was left belonged to us. 1099? I don’t think so. Tips—hardly ever! I exchanged my seven days a week that summer, for an occasional heavenly ice cream cone at Goodnoe’s Dairies.
Mom was upset that I didn’t jump on the opportunity to work at the pet store. She just reasoned that because I loved animals it would be a natural fit. She feared (okay I’m projecting) I was going to bum it out at home for the rest of my days. In reality, I couldn’t wait to get my own place. I just remember wanting to spend my very last summer being a kid one last time. After September I applied for a job and got it. The owner was impressed that I – a girl—delivered newspapers. The die was cast. I stayed in the retail lumber yard job for 13 years.
My father had an intellect but no mechanical ability, so what he wanted for me, was to become a nurse or a teacher— standard professions for females at the time. Not that there is or was anything wrong with those professions—I didn’t have the inspiration or the grades and my parents didn’t have the funds to send to me to school. I went into the workforce right away and got pretty good at learning the business. I had inherited my mother’s mechanical know-how as well as dad’s intellect. Poor dad—he couldn’t install a door knob. Really! He couldn’t.
I’m way passed the awkward learning curve and the days guys looked up my skirt (I couldn’t wear slacks) when I climbed the loft steps to retrieve gutter parts – but it seems that some men still don’t give us girls credit for working and knowing things outside the assumed female workplace role. To the phone customer last week who insultingly asked, “Easy Sand 90, do you know what that is?” I said, “of course” while smiling and thinking we haven’t come far enough.