Hope that you all are warm and toasty in this icy weather, and keeping safe considering the current pandemic.
2020….Ai, the year of so many changes, I now understand why I had such a good December lol. If I could adequately put it into perspective, it is as if though someone pressed the reset button and shifted life as we know it. The normal we once knew has become obsolete and we now walk into a very unknown territory.
At the start of this year I started to use a word I never thought I would ever put to my career, what is that word you ask? That word, my good friends is hate, I hated what I was doing for a living. I had lost all passion I once had for a career I once so passionately fought for.
Now you are probably thinking I have lost my marbles entirely, but lets delve into some back story for context.
The construction industry is one of the most male dominant industries, from the very beginning I have had to fight for my place at the table. Going as far back as to my first day in the Concrete Lab at university, where a fellow classmate told me that I didn’t know what I was doing, so I should just quit then and there. Having a stubborn nature, I managed to manually mix a concrete slurry in a skirt and sandals and pass my practical. Fast forward to my first day on site where I was told that I did not belong there, but rather barefoot and on my back. I ended up being the only female foreman on that site and managed a crew of 32 men and 5 subcontracting teams renovating 180 houses in my first year.
Fast forward even further, being the only woman at all site inspections, to being heavily pregnant on site twice and having to sacrifice more so than my male counterpart purely because I was told I DID NOT BELONG. Emotionally it has made me grow a really thick skin (being sarcastic af helped a lot too) coupled with amazing mentors who were willing to guide me the entire way, but on the other end, the toxic masculinity within the industry is such poison and I found myself doubting my abilities.
As a woman of color, I was told that the industry would be vying to add me to their teams, this was the case yes, but nobody talks about what that spot entails. You always have this sword hanging over your head, just waiting for you to mess up, this meant having to work ridiculous hours for below market value salaries, sacrificing overtime because I clearly couldn’t handle what was expected of me, pushing my body to work harder even when my doctors advised me that working on an active site and being pregnant was not the most ideal and having to brush off sexual harassment because ‘I chose the industry’.
To delve into that last part would take more than just this post, but the greatest turning point was when a colleague was making really crude remarks about my ass and I turned around and told him I would report him, his response: “well then I will just say that you are lying”.
Read that sentence again. “well then I will just say that you are lying”. My blood went cold, I realized that no matter how hard I worked, no matter what systems I would introduce, no matter the sacrifice, this is a boys club and either I’m willing to constantly fight for that seat at the table, or I change paths. I cried a lot, because I had missed so much time with my children, Dumplings first steps, Cupcakes first music recital, I worked so hard for something and yet, don’t have much to show for it. Even being qualified in my field did not count for anything.
I have learnt a lot about people though, and more so about myself. Being a muslim woman of color, I have had to attend events where I am not catered for, so would make excuses to leave. Have to explain my same story to HR about why I celebrate Eid twice each year. Explaining why I cannot work late because it is unsafe to drive alone home as a woman in this country, having to sign many warnings for that very reason. Or having to explain that I cannot come in to work as my children are sick but yet still getting my work done. I just could not anymore.
Being a working mom is often downplayed in general. I often say you need to work as if though you have no children, and care for your children as if though you have no work. The reality is often that many working moms need to make more sacrifices in terms of cutting short maternity leave, working longer hours thus relying on childcare which carries its own costs, having to use their lunch breaks to pick up their kids from school (that was me), the list is endless. Yet, what is often not seen is how much output a working mom is still able to produce within those circumstances. This does not take away from stay at home moms who are superheroes in their own rights. Working moms need to deal with the dynamic of those in senior roles who aren’t always willing to understand your circumstance. Which from a management perspective I totally understand, they have a business to run, however I have also had a brief experience with a senior manager who was so understanding and it really made me want to do better at my job. A working mom who is given the understanding will produce the most amazing results if afforded the opportunity.
My very reason for choosing the industry was to help uplift poorer communities, to see ideas turn into working buildings, and I achieved that. I have spoken to many women and the experience is the same, the industry has a very long way to go in terms of its change, with some amazing people doing great things to exact change, even willing to learn from you and teach you. I never sacrificed my character to become like others in the industry and still managed to get results. It was not the waves that I intended to make, but I have no doubt that the ripple that I made will never be forgotten.
This lock down has brought about a new venture of mine that I am so excited to share, LitchiApple, where I took some of that construction know how and turned it into educational tools to make learning fun. I was nauseated to start something on my own, but I am forever grateful that I could.
I’m not too sure of where this journey make lead me, but I am so excited for it.
Always with Love & Peace