Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Harsh Reality of Appearance Discrimination

It's not easy finding a job these days, and apparently, it's not easy to keep one either.  A good friend came to me yesterday completely distraught over a situation that is currently happening at her job.  After getting all the details and doing some research on my own, I feel compelled to write about it.  While this topic is not exclusive to just women or blue collar workers, I very strongly support my friend and this cause.


There are laws that protect discrimination, but only to a certain extent and for protected groups.  But as society and the world around us changes, so does the necessity for these laws to stay up to date and relevant.  Appearance discrimination is a real thing, and with alternative hair colors, piercings, and tattoos becoming exponentially prevalent in our society, I think we are well overdue for a reevaluation of what should be protected.  It should be our right to have our hair and bodies reflect our true selves in a way that makes us feel comfortable and confident as individuals.  We should not be discriminated against for expressing ourselves through the way we look based on another's personal opinions when it does not inhibit our ability to perform our essential job duties.

Let's set the scene.  You've been working full time for the last year in a management position.  When you were hired, your hair was already dyed red and you had a few extra piercings in your ears, but nothing too extreme.  Your appearance at the time of hiring did not affect your ability to obtain the position.

Flash forward a few months, when a new company takes over the business.  Within weeks, you are presented with new policies, and are being told that you must remove your piercings in order to retain your position.  You've had these piercings for years; it's simply a part of who you are, and none of your previous jobs have had any issues with them.  Begrudgingly, you oblige because let's face it, job hunting is hard these days.  It's a sacrifice you're not happy about, but you're willing to make it work.

Now we jump forward again to this week, and you're blindsided with not a request, but a DEMAND for you to change your hair color, because it is, and I quote, "too bright".  You're a natural red head, but you lighten it to enhance the color - something you've been doing for as long as you can remember.  And now, out of the blue, it's suddenly not acceptable anymore.  This is pretty much the last straw.  You feel as though the company is stripping away your sense of self, bit by bit.  They are basically making you choose between keeping your job and your lifestyle choices.  To you, this demand is as ridiculous as telling someone who bleaches their blonde hair to keep it less sandy colored and more luminous that their hair is "too bright".  Or telling someone light skinned who goes to a tanning salon regularly to maintain that bronzed look that their skin is "too dark".  Where do you draw the line?

It's the 21st century, the world has changed and we need to keep up with the changes.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  But these are not the only kinds of discrimination that exist.  While this article focuses mostly on hair color, appearance discrimination based on hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications is just as prevalent.  It's time to stand up for what we believe in and help shape our future into a more accepting environment of people who are comfortable in their own skin (and hair!).

How can you help Stop Appearance Discrimination?  Share this story, sign our Petition at Change.org, add your own experiences in the comments, but most of all, just spread the word!

Monday, June 1, 2015

So many changes and updates, where do I begin?

I haven't posted in a year, and there's a lot of reasons why.  I'll do my best to summarize the main points as briefly as possible so I can get back to what this blog was intended for - less about my personal life and more about representing and supporting blue collar women around the world.

I had a work related injury in the summer of 2014.  It was not recorded properly by my supervisor, which created a massive amount of problems and delays in the process of obtaining worker's compensation.  I went months, literally months without any money coming in.  My stress, depression, and anxiety were added to the physical complications, and I ended up having to contact a lawyer to help with the worker's compensation case.  A year later, I am still in limbo, and still haven't received any compensation for the months I was unable to work due to the injury.

In November I moved from California to Minnesota.  There were significant life changes that I went through that prompted this move, and although I did not have everything settled with my worker's compensation case, the move was necessary.  I was hoping for a fresh start here, closer to friends and family.

I took a seasonal job delivering packages over the holiday season.  It was great to get back to work and while I still had issues with my back from time to time, I was very proud of the work I did and I always felt accomplished at the end of the day when all the deliveries had been made.  That is one of the things I love most about working blue collar jobs, the personal satisfaction of a hard days work literally radiates through your body and you get not only a mental release but a physical relief when the workday is done.

After the holiday season I was back job hunting, and ended up taking a temporary position as an Executive Assistant.  This job definitely didn't fit into my normal category of work.  It was a desk job and while I was extremely efficient and effective with any and all tasks that I was given, I'm actually grateful it was only temporary.  I was completely miserable every day and when it ended, it only fueled my desire to find a job that was more true to myself and my needs.

Since then I've been applying for jobs again but I'm very particular in only applying for ones which peak my interest and are something I can see myself enjoying.  All of the jobs I've been applying for are blue collar jobs.  As much as I desire having a job at the management level, I don't think I would enjoy anything that has me stuck behind a desk again.  So I'm working my way up from the ground again, trying to find something in the technician field or something similar.  I have a few leads and I'm really excited to see where this new journey in my life takes me.

Stay true to yourself and your desires when it comes to finding a career.  Don't settle for anything less than you are worth.  What matters is your sense of happiness, not just the cents in your bank account.  Don't give up looking for a job that gives you both.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's not all sunshine and rainbows.

I have been purposefully absent from this blog for a while.   I hit a rough patch at work and in my personal life and I simply had no desire to narrate any of it.  Today was a day of dramatic ups and downs, and I decided that now would be a good time for an update.

While my job has a variety of positive and enjoyable aspects, it's nowhere near perfect.  Issues start to arise, many of which are out of my control, that affect my performance.  Customers become overwhelming and the reality of my inability to fix every single problem becomes overly apparent.  I'm expected to meet certain criteria monthly, and if not, then management starts to hover and nitpick, turning my fairly independent job into one of constant supervision and scrutiny.  I can handle a lot of the stress that comes with my job - the uncertainty of customers, the inevitable shortcomings, the almost unrealistic expectations of upper management - but when I lose my freedom to do my job and be responsible for my own work, my job becomes suffocating and overwhelming to a point where I simply don't handle it well.

While getting dangerously close to my breaking point at work, I was jolted back to a positive place when I got a call for an interview - a management position I had applied for.  It is within the same company but at a different location.  I was not familiar with any of the other managers over there, but I figured that would be a good thing, a fresh start and a new environment.  I went to the interview and it lasted for over an hour.  Things seemed to be going swimmingly.  I called to follow up the next week and I was informed that the decision had not yet been made, but I was one of the final two.  It was between me and another guy.  I responded to a few follow up questions and then a week later, I got a phone call.

I was full of excitement when I answered the phone, recognizing the number.  But I could tell almost immediately that the news I was getting was not what I hoped for.  He started off the call by saying, "I don't normally do this, but..." and I knew I hadn't gotten the job.  He had called to tell me they went with the other person.  I thanked him for the opportunity, and inquired about what I could have done different.  I think he was surprised at the question because he didn't really give me a straight answer with any useful criticism.  I managed to control my emotions until I pushed "end call" on my phone, and then I broke down.

I've worked so hard, for so many years, to get into management.  At my previous job, I had applied for management multiple times, and landed interviews twice, but never got the position.  This is my first attempt for management with my present company, and this was my first real chance and my first real failure.  It hit me hard and honestly, I'm still not recovered from it.  It makes me feel inadequate and
question myself and my abilities.  What I am missing?  Do I just not have the management gene?

Part of me wants to just give up trying to get into management.  I've tried so many times and never succeeded, there must be a reason they don't choose me.  Maybe I should just stick with my blue collar job and be content with the fact that it pays decent.  But I'm not content with that, and I know I'll keep trying, for as long as it takes, to move up into management.  No matter how many times I get turned down, I'll still keep striving for it.  I've also broadened my search for management positions with other similar companies so as not to limit myself and my opportunities.  I want to have a career, not just a job.  So I've also started really diving deep into my own thoughts and desires to try and determine what it is that I TRULY want to do with my life.  What would make me happy?  What is my passion in life?  What sort of job could incorporate my work experience and skills with the things I truly enjoy and am passionate about?  It's the ultimate question for me right now.

But in the meantime, I still have to resume my regular work.  Returning to my already exceedingly stressful job after the defeat of not landing the management position has been simply brutal.  But slowly I am recovering and getting back into the groove of things at work.  I'm good at what I do and I take pride in my work.  That's really all I can do for now.  That, and as Dory would say, "Just keep swimming."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sad news today.

We lost a union sister last week in Dallas, Texas.  She was only 19 and it was her first day out in the field on her own.  The article states the customer "demanded" that the installation be finished that day, even though there were complications, most likely out of her control.  Other techs and even managers were out there to help her, but the job still wasn't finished until 1am.  She made it back to the garage safely, but on her drive home she had a fatal car crash.

This whole story is really saddening.  First of all, this girl was being intimidated by a customer who was demanding something of her that most likely was not in her control, hence the necessity to call out help from others including management.  No one, male or female, should have to take that kind of treatment from a customer.  It's just simply cruel and inhumane to treat manual workers as though they are beneath you.

Being a female working as a technician puts a LOT of extra pressure on us, because we have to "keep up with the guys".  There is nothing comparable to this for the men working in this industry.  We all have a set of standards we need to meet, but women, on top of all that, have to "prove" ourselves.  I imagine this poor girl was out at this job and was feeling that pressure tenfold, she had to prove herself to the customer, the other technicians, the managers, and the company in general.  The first day in the field is a big day, and a hard day for some.  But for her, this was basically the worst case scenario.  I can only imagine the struggles and frustrations she was going through.

The details of her crash after work are unknown, I tried to search news articles for this incident but oddly, there is no coverage of it.  When the answers do start to surface, I will not be surprised if fatigue, starvation, dehydration, and/or general exhaustion played a major role in her ability to drive home safely after work.  I have a friend going through training as we speak, and given my knowledge of the current training process, she most likely started at 8am and had only ONE job for the whole day, meaning she was at this job for 17 HOURS.  This doesn't reflect anything poorly on the training process, but it DOES reflect on how the company deals with "demanding" customers putting unnecessary pressure on the technician, and the processes for when a job ends up running after hours.  Was she able to take any of her scheduled breaks, including lunch?  Did she have access to enough water to keep her hydrated throughout the day?  If she was working outdoors, was she able to get out of the sun enough or did she have enough sun protection?  There are many unanswered questions at this time.

This is a hard hit for women in blue collar industries.  I am nervous to see what the news will makes out of this situation, it could end up coming back on her and I think that would be truly unfortunate.  Even just from this one article I could tell this was a hard working and highly determined young woman who was simply just trying to get the job done to appease the customer.  We have lost a sister, someone who was willing to go against the grain and take a job that comes with a lot of unspoken hardships and inequalities for women.  Prayers and condolences go out to her family and friends. 

Thank you, Britany, for staying strong and representing the hard working women in the blue collar, male dominated industries.  May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Lady Who Sews

This photograph is of a wonderful lady I met while at work a few years ago.  My job consisted of going in and out of yards and sometimes houses which normally was pretty awesome because of the ever changing environment.  But in this particular area, there was a lot of resistance which made my job highly stressful.  I love chatting with customers, seeing new things, hearing new stories - it's one of the reasons I enjoy working "field" jobs to this day.  But in this city it had gotten to the point where I would hope people didn’t answer their doors so that I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone - which is totally opposite of my normal behavior.

I was having a particularly bad week where I was actually assaulted by a customer (that's a story for a later date) and then I met Gloria.  She opened her front door, and the picture above is exactly what I saw when I peeked in.  She was sitting there, at her sewing machine, working away.  I explained what I was there for, expecting resistance like I had grown accustomed to, but she just smiled with her whole body and told me to go right ahead and do what I needed to do.  As I was out back working, she peeked out and said, “When you’re done, come inside, I’ve got a little something for you.”

Afterwards I went inside and she motioned for me to follow her, and she showed me these piles, baskets, and trunks full of crafts she had made.  They were gorgeous!  She told me to pick out a set of potholders from the trunk.  I asked her if she had ever thought of selling these beautiful items, and she said she used to have four shops downtown, but with the economy, she had to close them up, one by one, and now she doesn’t sell anything at all.  I asked her why she still kept making them, and she told me, “It’s my therapy.”  I was enthralled by everything she was talking about.  She was wise without being condescending, yet with a gentle sternness to ensure that I was taking what she said to heart.

I regretted having to leave, I wished I could’ve stayed there all day.  But I had to get back to work.  I told her how much I appreciated her time and the gift, and then asked for one small favor before I left - if I could take a picture of her.  I told her I admired her sewing machine from the minute she had opened the door, and would like a picture of her working at it, just like my first impression of her.  She blushed and commented about how she wasn’t even wearing a nice shirt, but said she would love to.  She told me a little more about the sewing machine as well.  It was her mother’s, made in 1909, and she still does all her sewing on that, and only that machine.  I told her it was beautiful, and so was she.  I took this one photo of her working at her machine.  Just this one.  It was perfect, I had no need to retake it.  I thanked her again and then reluctantly left to continue on with my work day.

I love this picture so much because it reminds me not just of this woman and her stories, but it is a constant reminder that I never know what will come next.  It doesn’t matter how bad of a day I’m having, or how many “difficult” customers I’ve had to deal with, there’s always another door, and I never know who will be behind it.  This still rings true with my current job as well.  When I have customers treat me poorly, I think about Gloria and she is a reminder that I can’t let negative experiences make me a negative person.  Every second - every breath - is brand new.  And I need to make the best of it and be the best person I can be.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

You know what they say about people who "assume"...

One of the things I encounter on almost a daily basis is when I call a customer, and they assume I'm from the call center.  They assume I'm sitting in an office somewhere, behind some screen that's telling me who to call and following some sort of prompt as to what to say.

I constantly have people say things like, "Where's the technician?  They told me he would be here at "x:yz" time and he's not here yet.", to which I respond by stating that I am the technician and I'm on my way.  Some people still don't understand, and I have even been YELLED at by customers over the phone.  Sometimes during these calls the customer just zones out.  I will state that I'm on my way, and I will still get responses like, "Oh is he here?  I don't see him outside."  I constantly wonder how these calls get so misconstrued when I've barely spoken more than two sentences to this person.  Do they assume they already know what I'm going to say and therefore feel they have no necessity to pay attention?

The best ones are when a customer will start yelling and screaming at me over the phone, because they assume I'm just another call center jockey sitting behind a desk.  When I'm finally able to explain to the customer (well not just explain but actually get them to comprehend which is an even bigger challenge) that I, this person they are conversing with AT THIS VERY MOMENT, is the person who will be at their place of residence in less than 30 minutes, you'd be amazed at how quickly their attitude and demeanor changes.  People have absolutely NO SHAME about yelling and sometimes even berating people whom they've never met during a phone call.  They take their anger out on the person on the other end of the line, because in their minds, it's someone they have never met and will never meet.  To them, that call center person is just a faceless voice, no different than if they were to scream at a recording.  But when they realize that they are talking to the person who very shortly will be in their presence, and in their HOME, their behavior does a complete 180.  Once I'm at their place, they apologize profusely and sometimes they seem to not know how to act around me.  I've even had one guy literally say to me, "I'm sorry I yelled at you, I didn't know you were the technician." - as though it would've been okay for him to yell at me if I wasn't?  Seriously?!?!

The misconception of the technician being male is so ingrained in our society.  It's evident to me on a daily basis simply by these false assumptions made by the customers.  I do think gender plays a big part in it.  They hear my voice, recognize that I am female, and that connection between "female" and "technician" just doesn't exist in their mind.  This is one of the things that really intrigues me the most, because it's really the most challenging of all - how do us females gain ACCEPTANCE in a male dominated industry?  Not just with our coworkers, company or industry - but with the customers as well?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Faster than a speeding tortoise.

Some of you may have already seen this video, but I figured with my first few posts being more serious it was time to lighten it up.

At one of my previous jobs, I was mostly in yards and rarely inside houses.  Therefore, I carried a "dog stick" to fend off any aggressive dogs that I could potentially encounter.  But I'm pretty sure that I never had any training on how to deal with this sort of situation.

I know it's silly, but I swear, this tortoise has record setting speeds...or at least it seemed that way.  ;)  The lady that came into the yard did tell me that he DOES bite, so I am glad I kept away from him!

And yes, I did call it a turtle at the end.  It was a wacky situation and I just wanted to get the tortoise out of my way so I could do my job!  One sure thing about having a job that takes you into peoples homes and yards is that you never know what you're going to come across.  It's a surprise every time!