Cre­at­ing a re­spect­ful work­place

Lo­cal elec­tri­cian un­der­stands sex­ual ha­rass­ment’s sting

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

WARN­ING: THIS STORY CON­TAINS OF­FEN­SIVE LAN­GUAGE.

Imag­ine for a mo­ment you’re a 30-some­thing fe­male.

It’s your first day at a new job as a con­struc­tion worker. You drive to the lo­ca­tion and climb out to meet your new col­leagues.

You no­tice you’re the only fe­male on pay­roll. But that doesn’t bother you. You have the skills, you have the train­ing and you’re there to do a job.

As you walk across the park­ing lot to greet your new col­leagues, you hear whis­tles and cat­call­ing.

“Hey baby, need a hand with your tool­box,” they might say.

Al­though the above sce­nario is fic­tion, Joann Gree­ley says it’s not un­com­mon for women to hear th­ese sorts of com­ments in male­dom­i­nated pro­fes­sions. Gree­ley is a jour­neyed elec­tri­cian from Green’s Har­bour.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is de­fined as un­wanted sex­ual be­hav­iour. Gree­ley felt it was nec­es­sary to share her ex­pe­ri­ence with sex­ual ha­rass­ment in light of the na­tional head­lines made by the Spa­niard’s Bay Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

When she first started out in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try over a decade ago, there were many com­ments.

But each day she pushed through.

“(It gets) to the point where you don’t want to go to work be­cause your su­per­vi­sor is ha­rass­ing you,” Gree­ley told The Com­pass. “But you need the job be­cause you’re try­ing to get your hours as an ap­pren­tice.”

One su­per­vi­sor in par­tic­u­lar, who was 10 years her ju­nior, was re­ally hard on her.

She said he was al­ways on her back, ask­ing why some­thing wasn’t fin­ished in an un­rea­son­able amount of time.

But the worst was deal­ing with the ver­bal abuse she ex­pe­ri­enced, es­pe­cially one Fri­day af­ter­noon while get­ting ready to leave for the week­end.

“My su­per­vi­sor told me the rea­son I’m such a bitch is be­cause I wasn’t get­ting laid,” Gree­ley said can­didly. “And if I gave him my num­ber, he’d have his buddy come over and take care of me.”

She was gob­s­macked. Al­though it wasn’t the first un­wel­come com­ment he made to her, it ul­ti­mately stood out.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is not crim­i­nal in Canada, rather it’s a hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion.

Cana­dian Labour Re­la­tions web­site re­ports that 10 per cent of Cana­dian work­ers ages 19 to 24 re­ported be­ing vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place within the year prior to the sur­vey. Over 90 per cent said they had ex­pe­ri­enced it in their life­time.

Com­bat­ing the neg­a­tives

Gree­ley is a mem­ber of Build To­gether, an or­ga­ni­za­tion for women in con­struc­tion-re­lated skilled trades. She is also the owner of her own elec­tri­cian busi­ness.

Part of what Build To­gether works to ac­com­plish is the pro- mo­tion of re­spect­ful work­places.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site — www.build­to­gether.ca — has a sec­tion just for re­spect­ful work­places. And it doesn’t just re­late to fe­males.

One of the things the or­ga­ni­za­tion dis­cusses is large projects and what types of ha­rass­ment sit­u­a­tions are be­ing re­ported, and if there is rep­e­ti­tion in the types of in­ci­dents that take place at th­ese lo­ca­tions.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to see one of the things that keeps com­ing up is education,” Gree­ley said. “It’s hav­ing shop stew­ards trained, it’s hav­ing other peo­ple know what it is and be will­ing to stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

In her own ex­pe­ri­ence, there weren’t many in­stances where she didn’t stand up for her­self. But she knows not ev­ery­one would be able to do that.

“It’s about the young girl that’s be­hind me that doesn’t have as much con­fi­dence as I do,” she said. “She gives up on her dream be­cause she be­lieves she can’t han­dle (the ha­rass­ment and abuse).”

Make it stop

It’s un­likely work­place sex­ual ha­rass­ment will be elim­i­nated overnight. But Gree­ley be­lieves if work­ers stick to­gether, it can get bet­ter and eas­ier for oth­ers.

“You have three or four peo­ple who have poor be­hav­iour, they make it bad for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion,” she said. “A lot of men find this be­hav­iour un­ac­cept­able. But for some rea­son they don’t have the voice to stand up.”

The strug­gles are still real for women in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and male-dom­i­nated pro­fes­sions. And Gree­ley wants peo­ple to be aware that it is not OK.

“(I have had male col­leagues try and) fig­ure out if they can get you in bed or they can date you,” she said. “When you let them know you’re not in­ter­ested, then they have to see if they can make you cry.”

There are many in­ci­dents that Gree­ley has wit­nessed, but she knows there are also many peo­ple that don’t tol­er­ate that kind of hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment.

“This is not ev­ery job site. This is not ev­ery com­pany … We just have to re­mem­ber, the more we talk about it, the bet­ter it’s go­ing to get for peo­ple that are out on th­ese jobs.”

Gree­ley

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