International Women’s Day 2021: Technician Spotlight
Happy International Women’s Day! Our relocation support services are performed by a network of professional technicians throughout North America. We’d like to honor the achievements of the determined and dynamic female service providers among them forging their own paths in an otherwise male-dominated line of work with this technician spotlight.
This year’s focus is “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.” We couldn’t think of a better representative to showcase that concept than this woman, who challenges the relocation industry every day as the owner and lead technician of a third party business.
Meet the insightful, shrewd, and inspiring Jean from Maine!
How did you get into this business?
I came into third party work by accepting a job opportunity with a contractor to assist. After three years, he had an opportunity to move in a new direction and because I’d done good work for him – he asked me if I would be interested in taking over his area. Never one to turn down an opportunity or a challenge, I agreed to do that. I was already an independent contractor for fine art framing and museum installation, had a life of vast business and trades experience, so this was a natural outgrowth. I am also fortunate enough to be a logical thinker, creatively intelligent, with a high level of energy and commitment to follow through on all tasks I assume. I am also a stoic by nature so it takes a lot to freak me out. As one could guess, these are valuable personal assets for one in this line of work.
How do you feel about being a woman in a predominantly male industry?
I don’t think about it too much because I’ve always worked in nontraditional jobs with men – 10 years in the blue-collar world of the paper mill driving all assortment of lift trucks, tractor trailer, and years on the road as a recording artist with all men in the band… gender is not my focus, getting the job done carefully and efficiently is. In the past when I have been up against men who were assuming the worst and weakest of me on first impression, I never let their attitude rule the atmosphere. I was kind anyway because I knew my job performance was going to quickly settle them down. I like to keep control over my own inner climate so while ignorance is frustrating, it’s not about me, it’s about them and not my problem to deal with. Knocking down that grand piano is what I’m there for…
I am proud to be a woman that the guys respect – they have smiles and hugs when I arrive and they know they are not going to be waiting for me to get my work done so they can get on the road. I am a team player and proud of our entire group out in the field.
Shippers tell me that the men talk highly of me behind my back so I am in a good place. They know I carry my weight and they respect my intelligence. What more could I want?
Have you ever faced any prejudice on the job because of your gender?
I could say yes to that but I’m not sure it would be accurate. When I was “green”, they did have to wait for me to finish up and they didn’t like it – but I am sure that the guys are the same way with a new male tech who is slower at the beginning of learning the field.
But, if you are one to take on the challenge, this is the push that will show you what you are made of. There have been times I wanted to just walk off the job but it was my lack of experience that I was up against and the men were impacted by that slowing them down in a world where time is money.
That’s when you make a choice to either go home because you are not an adrenalin junkie, or you go into lockdown like an ADHD “commando” (as one shipper called me happily).
Obviously, I have chosen lockdown mode and continually doing what I can to give the best service and the more I succeed in that, the more confidence I have in all areas of my life. A personal goal for high performance trumps gender concerns for me. When you can come onto a job and bring cheerfulness, energy, and high-quality performance, everyone is happy. I focus on that.
The prejudice that I have experienced has been with some third-party companies who try and resist paying me the rates they pay men and I’ve had to fight for what’s fair. I don’t have too much patience for that and because I service such a wilderness territory that’s difficult to cover, I usually get the justice I need to continue the work with a good attitude. Being treated fairly is the best way to avoid toxicity in all levels of the work. And I know that I must exhibit this same behavior as a lifestyle and demonstrate my ethics daily.
Do you have any advice for other women trying to break into a male-dominated industry?
Compete with yourself only, learn everything you can from everyone and every circumstance, don’t take anything personally, and treat the men as you would treat your brothers and hold good boundaries. If you wonder about how you should behave or how others are treating you, ask yourself how you would respond if this man was your brother and then you can be clear and keep gender/sexuality issues out of the job environment.
Don’t make assumptions about men that are not fair to them. It works both ways. Treat everyone with kindness and dignity and expect the best in everyone.
If you feel like you’re being “mansplained” about something, just take it in, don’t take it on. I’ve been “mansplained” by women, so it isn’t a man thing per se. Learn what you can even from the jerks and thank them for their help. Courtesy will be your friend even if it means thanking someone for telling you what you already know.
As one softball coach wisely told me “Never mind where anyone else is, just pay attention to where you are.”