A Different Kind of Work

When most people hear what I do for a job they give me a strange look of disbelief and, more often than not, it’s because I’m a girl. I work at my step-grandfather’s machine shop, where I make metal parts that are meant for machines at other businesses. Machining is not what I want to do with my life, not even close. I took the job because my family member needed the help and I was able to do it. I’ve actually come to quite like the work. Especially because occasionally, I can turn the machine one then work on homework, while keeping an eye on the machine to make sure nothing disastrous is happening with the parts. Being able to do this really helps me to stay on top of my schoolwork, which is important to me.

Since I’ve started working at the shop, I have learned a great deal. It’s all extremely interesting, but rather difficult work. I’ve gotten to learn how to work most of the machines in the shop, which includes setting them up to begin use, controlling whether or not the entire program runs or if I want just one part to run, and how to handle emergency shut down in case anything goes haywire. Another essential task is measuring the parts that come off of the machine and making sure they’re all the same. If not, then the machine has to be reset to new dimensions to ensure that all of the parts are correct. One of the more interesting aspects of my job is that I get to drive a forklift at times. That’s never something I thought I would be doing and yet it’s something I’ve come to enjoy. Pretty soon, I’m also going to be doing the paperwork, such as payroll, because I have experience in Quickbooks.

But the work and learning all these new things isn’t the issue that I face with my job. The issue is the way people react to a girl working in a man’s world. From those weird looks I mentioned earlier to the one guy that came into the shop and told my boss it was smart of him to hire “a very pretty girl” to attract business, while looking my body up and down in a very crude manner, I am regarded differently at my job.

                                                                Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are quite a few machine shops in the buildings around where I work. And out of all of them, I am the only female working there. It gets a little awkward sometimes because I’m surrounded by all these adult men and I’m only in college, but I typically just put in some earbuds and mind my own business and get my work done. Occasionally, I’ll have to help out more when people come into the shop and I always get that furrowed-brow look because I’m the girl working in a machine shop. But once people see that I’m actually very good at what I do, they tend to treat me as they do my other coworkers.

The thing that bothers me the most is that a majority of my peers are surprised by the work that I do because they see me as a fragile girl. I had one classmate tell me that there is simply no way that I work at a machine shop because I wear skirts and dresses all the time, as well as always have my makeup done. This particularly stuck with me because I wasn’t aware that dressing and presenting myself nicely equates to my ability to work with machines. The way I’ve come to see it, as long as I do the work and I do it well, then my personality and the way I choose to present myself should not affect that.

                                                                Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com 

On the brighter side, my friends talk about how cool my job is because it's so different. It’s not every day that you hear of a girl doing this type of work, much less a teenager, and I like that I’m able to surprise others with this fact. 

The best part about getting to work at the shop is that there is a lot to do. I’m a very hands-on person and this type of work keeps me very busy, which is great. There’s always something that needs to be done and new work to be learned, so my job is never dull.

I know that being a girl in a man’s world of metal work and machining is extremely rare, but I think it would be incredible if it became more widely accepted. I like being able to prove that a girl can do anything that a man can do, breaking those stereotypes that we’re weak and incapable. I highly encourage other women to put themselves outside of their comfort zones and try something new like this, because they might be surprised by just how much they enjoy it.