Working in an All-Male Environment

I have a temporary job at a factory near my house that lets parents order their child’s christmas card design as actual cards. It’s a really neat idea. I work at the end of the production line checking that the packaged orders are complete before sending it on to be sealed and shipped. There are so many temporary staff there right now, probably 30 of us working in different sections of the business, and there’s a really interesting divide. Upstairs is where the scanning of artwork happens, and touching up/editing of the pictures. Downstairs is where the cards get printed, packaged and shipped. Upstairs has more girls than guys based on who I see in the staff room in breaks (maybe like a 60:40 ratio), downstairs there are 7 guys and me.

I didn’t notice this at all for the first few days that I was working there, I felt comfortable where I was- granted they’re not Manly Men, being a mixture of gap year students and middle aged dad types- but when I noticed the people coming downstairs at break times it was weird. I get uncomfortable around feminine girls, and the majority of those upstairs are just that. I wonder what they think, if they pity me for being the only one working with a bunch of guys, or for being stuck on a production line while they work in an office but then I’m like…that really doesn’t matter. I like it. I feel more comfortable than I would surrounded by them.

I do feel kind of excluded though. Not in a nobody-talks-to-me kind of way, because they do and they’re very nice, but more of a they-treat-me-like-i’m-delicate type way. Its little things, I’ll get a smile and a thumbs up as my boss walks past or the people I work with will look concerned when I go towards them to ask them a question- which they don’t do for anyone else. I wonder if they feel weird with me being there.

Some people have a job that needs them to move around the room carrying or preparing boxes, so its easy to have conversations in passing. If our machine jams (which it does a lot), while its being fixed we have nothing to do, so the guy working next to me tends to wander about and chat to other people as they work. He went home early today and the machine jammed for an unusually long amount of time so we were told to take 5. I wandered over to other people, exchanged a few words. The general feeling I got was friendliness from the ‘dads’ and wariness from the students, like I had an ulterior motive and didn’t just want a chat.

Its nice now I’ve been there for over a week that they’re starting to include me in their banter. I think the combination of me being shy and knowing (or at least thinking) that they see me as the odd one out has made this harder than it needed to be in terms of holding a conversation. Also I haven’t been talking much because of my voice. Being surrounded by voices of a lower pitch than my own has made me far more conscious of how it sounds, which in turn makes me nervous and causes it to go higher (which is so counterproductive, thanks self).

Overall I’m pretty happy, the people are nice but I think I might be making myself the outsider by thinking that they think of me as one. A couple of people are leaving this week and I’m sort of hoping that they aren’t replaced by girls because they make me uncomfortable in a whole different way.


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