By Lauren Linhard – firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Depot – a place that once brought fear to my heart – has recently been added to my “bitches, I got this” list. Sure, I made a chart of everything I needed and checked online what aisles I could find stuff in, but I was driven to succeed without help from a man.
Single for the first time in seven years, and preparing to move out on my own, this was a personal step I was determined to take solo – my female empowerment moment. And after a slightly stressful hour of navigating a cart much bigger than I and wondering if maybe there just isn’t an aisle 43, I found everything I needed to make my own coffee table.
The harrowing experience, and slight adrenaline rush afterwards, got me thinking about the other brave women out there taking on the male sphere.
As of 2014, more than 3 million women are in “nontraditional occupations,” defined as working in an industry made up of 75 percent or more of men. A few examples: detectives, chefs, barbers, engineers, construction and building inspectors, machinists, truck drivers, fire fighters, aircraft pilots and construction workers.
This “nontraditional” category has formed, not because women are any less skilled than men, or vice versa, but because cultural norms dictate what kind of jobs each sex should be aspiring to, creating a comfort zone of expectation. In other words – more gender stereotypes.
So, when a woman decides she wants to take on Home Depot or makes the choice to become a diesel mechanic, she is daring, independent and brave rather than another human working toward a goal.
Men and women are fully capable of completing the same jobs based on skill. The requirements of a construction manager (6 percent female), for example, are drastically similar to those of a convention planner (80 percent female). The same can be said for civil engineers (11 percent female) and registered nurses (92 percent female).
And physical strength, certainly something I thought about when stubbornly lifting crates and plywood into my cart, is not as big a deterrent as people think. When you break down the five types of human strength needed on the job, men are only an average of roughly .57 points stronger than women.
So why are certain jobs considered “woman’s work” and some are “men’s work”? Why are women more likely to become home care aids than firefighters? Why do I feel more comfortable in WalMart than Home Depot? Answer – tradition and socialization.
It’s time to address these stereotypes, start a conversation about subtle sexisms and build that metaphorical (or literal) coffee table.