It’s not uncommon to stumble upon the opinion that “gender equality” is as balanced as it ever has been. And while there are opportunities for women to grow in whatever industry they desire, it does not eliminate the alienation and discrimination for many women in the workforce. The field of trades is one of those areas where women are always fighting to prove themselves against their male counterparts. Skilled trade jobs, such as electricians, construction and iron-workers, are now in high demand. The latter involves one woman who has experienced all of the difficulties and rewards that come with being a tradeswoman, in an industry dominated by men.
Beth “Glo” Beattie is one of the less than 1% of iron-workers who is female, however she is working to change that.
While growing up, Beattie felt that she fit the “gender role” that society dictated to her. This gender identity may be what pushed her toward the teaching career that she initially aspired to in her early college career. But, just as many college students do, Beattie decided she wanted to change her career path.
She sought advice from friends and family, and eventually found herself talking to a friend’s husband who told her, 'If you’re going to work your ass off, why don’t you get a job where you get paid well for it and get some benefits?' Beattie had been interested in the trades professions earlier, and remembering how hard her parents worked every day to raise six children, she decided to hold to the “hard work” mentality while seeking the next step in her life.
Beattie joined the Iron-workers Local 512 apprenticeship and was sworn in during May 2008.
Since then, being an iron-worker has changed Beattie’s life in a lot of ways. “The job itself is exciting, one day you can be overlooking an entire city, the next day you could be beneath that same city, working underground,” she says..
Each day presents a new experience, but not all of those experiences are positive. It didn't take long for Beattie to realize that safety equipment, even gloves, lacked sizes fit for women. But that issue was minuscule when compared to the everyday challenges of dealing with some of her male co-workers.
“Myself, and other women, are perceived and treated in many different ways depending on the group of guys we’re working with and the job site we’re on.” Some men, Beattie said, will flat out refuse to work with her and others, while other guys will go out of their way to teach them the “tricks of the trade.”
Beattie doesn't want the reactions of some men to affect women seeking new opportunities of employment though. As history as shown us, discrimination can only be changed if enough people want it to. It can be discouraging to women who are interested in the trade that men make up over 95% of all trade-related fields, and Beattie will be the first to admit that working as an iron worker is no easy task. Every day women need to prove that they belong, but with help of a nationwide group of women to seek advice from, along with an annual event called “The Women Building the Nation Conference,” women will have help to persevere in the face of discrimination.
Beattie attended her first conference in 2012. There are over 40 different workshops, some of which talk about policies, politics and promoting. Each woman has a favorite, Beattie’s is called Snappy Comebacks. “This class helps with ideas on how to effectively respond to co-workers-statements that are only made to women,” she says. Many of these statements are sexist and are an attempt to invalidate the work that women put in while working in the trade industries, so being able to respond effectively is important.
Something to note is that even with all that she has to deal everyday Glo would not change a thing. She has had the opportunity to find a sisterhood, something that has inspired her to take another step in her career.
The yearly conference inspired Glo to create a group of her own. With the help of her friend Lindzi Campbell, a captain of the fire department in Superior, Wisconsin, Rosie’s Social Club was born.
This club gives women an opportunity to discuss a variety of things. Many of the topics expand on what is taught at the Women Building the Nation Conference.
“We discuss what we like about our jobs, what we didn’t like, and the different ways that we have dealt with things like sexual harassment,” says Glo.
For now, Glo just wants to get the word out about the existence of the club, because to her knowledge it is the only one that exists.
What’s the plan for Rosie’s Social club in the future? “We want to promote the trades as viable jobs for women, provide support and share logistical information about trade work, maybe even have a beer,” says Glo.
The next meeting for Rosie’s Social Club is April 26th at 7PM. It will take place at Vintage Italian Pizza, 1201 Tower Ave. Superior, WI.