If I’m perfectly honest about it, I’ve been rather lucky as a woman in the trades. I got a pretty good job only a few months out of college, I’ve had many opportunities to prove that I’m just as good at the job as all the guys, and for the overwhelming part I’ve worked with men of all ages who have been completely respectful of me. I’ve even had several guys praise me for being confident enough to survive the Albertan oil sands.
But there’s one aspect about being a tradeswoman that has vexed and frustrated me from day one: the apparel.
Now, I’m not crazy…I know that the overwhelming majority of people working in the trades are men, and that manufacturers are therefore going to focus on apparel for those men. I also understand that most retailers in areas like Nova Scotia are not going to sell a lot of women’s trades gear, and thus they aren’t going to want to waste space in their establishments by stocking too much of it.
But know that doesn’t make it any less frustrating trying to buy gear.
When I first began my job at the paper mill, I spent three straight years wearing a pair of men’s work pants. The smallest size that I could find that would still fit over my hips was over 8 inches too big in the waist. I had to wear a belt pulled as tight as it would go, with big bunches of the waist of the pants digging into my sides at all time. Additionally I had to wear men’s steel toed boots which, while I was able to find a decent size, were not very comfortable because they were not designed for the shape of a woman’s calves. But the silliest thing, to be sure, was the gloves. We had to wear mechanics gloves on the job, but even the smallest size left so much room in the fingers that I had absolutely no dexterity. My supervisor had to go online and order boys size motocross racing gloves in order to find something reasonable for me.
And these days, while things have improved somewhat, there are still some things that are difficult, if not impossible to find, and the options that are available are not spectacular.
Currently I am doing my best to find a decent pair of winter work boots. They have to be CSA approved and have steel toes because, you know…industry. And preferably they have to be rated for very cold temperatures. Last winter in Alberta my toes almost froze right off before I was moved up to the control room, and this year I’ll be going right out into the field in the coldest part of the winter. So I’m searching and searching, but the options are extremely limited. Mark’s Work Wearhouse, which is usually where I find most things for work, has exactly two options for women’s winter work boots and neither of them are rated for particularly cold weather (nor are are they available in store anywhere in Nova Scotia). Baffin carries one pair that I can find, and while it looks like it will probably be a decent pair it flummoxes me why it is only rated for -60 degrees C, when almost all of the men’s pairs are rated for -100. Not to mention, of the few (very few) pairs of boots I’ve been able to find, I can’t find any reviews on them to let me know if they’re actually any good or not. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but since I’m going to have to order them on time and I only really have enough time for one try, I’m going to be stuck with whatever pair I order first.
I don’t usually like to use my blog to whine about these sorts of things, but I thought I might as well, because maybe if I’m lucky some woman will read this and know my pain and maybe be able to offer a suggestion or two.
I won’t hold my breath though. ^_~