Wednesday, September 26, 2007


So I currently work at a little burner and boiler parts wholesaler. I've been trained in industrial instrumentation and I have my C Gas Ticket, which in BC means I can work on residential gas appliances. I've wanted to be out on the tools for a long time now, and I've finally done it.

I'm angry though, I was the only woman in my classes and of course I was the only one who got stuck in sales. I make less then my classmates and it's taken me two years of making contacts and proving myself to get this opportunity. I had to challenge the beliefs of the guy who finally did hire me. He was disbelieving of the fact that I could and would "swing a pipe wrench".

Now I am working 5 days at my sales job (I finish my contract in December), I work Saturdays for my new employer, I've been going to the gym 2-4 days a week to get in shape for this new job and on top of it all, my new employer wants me to study for my Power Engineering Certificate. I'm doing it all, but I feel like I'm just barely holding it together.

This Saturday will mark day 4 of this new job. So far I've helped install a boiler feedwater tank, do a boiler inspection and fit up a stainless steel steam heat exchanger. I've done a lot of grunt work (threading and fitting pipe) and I've also learned so much. I've also been physically able to do almost everything I needed to do. The one thing I couldn't do, which was breaking seized pipe unions, I will be able to do shortly. Another month or two at the gym and all this grunt work on the weekends, and I will have biceps of steel baby! Then I'll show those unions who's boss!

Despite all this, the fact that I've been doing it all, that I can see the changes in my body, that I know I will continue to get stronger, that I know I can pick up new skills quickly, that the people I'm working with seem to be pretty awesome, I'm terrified.
I'm terrified that I'm going to run into something I won't be able to do, to learn, to figure out. I'm terrified that I'm going to be told I'm not strong/competent/able enough to do the job.
I'm terrified my feet will start to hurt again and I will either be in pain constantly or I will just have to quit. (I had to leave a wharehouse job because of plantar fasciitis, it was several months of constant pain before I did though)

Then there is this tremendous pressure I feel. I feel like if I fail at this, my entire gender will be judged because of it. If I don't make it, my new employer will never hire another woman. That the customers I've met will "know" that it was a mistake for the company to hire me. This is bullshit, but given my experience, I know in some ways it's not far from the truth.

Last Saturday we worked in a Punjabi Dairy. I could feel the looks, varied from disdain, to outrage, to disbelief that I was there, that I was doing a "man's job".

All of this, and I can't fucking wait till I'm at this full time. I love building and creating, working with the tools, troubleshooting and solving problems. I love the physical nature of the job, cranking away at the fittings, climbing up or crouching down and wedging yourself between things. I love the the people and the places, always something new. I love the satisfaction of a difficult problem solved, of a beautifully done job, of a happy new owner.

So I breath, and take this one day at a time. What else can I do?