Guest story brought to you by I Love My Steel Cap Boots
I drew the short straw and attended my first HSE contractor meeting this week. Before I went, those who had previously attended said I would get a lot out of it, but I noticed there was an undertone of “you will be bored out of your mind”. So I didn’t really know what to expect. Having attended an uncountable number of industry and company-specific inductions, I was anticipating this would be quite similar and so a yawn fest. It was actually quite interesting, but I won’t bore you with industry particulars.
I have noticed lately that there are three things that tend to go against me when I turn up at a new location, whether it be a safety meeting, a gas camp or a job site. The first is I am employed by a company with a unique name — Boobook. If I had a dollar for every time I’m asked “Is that a bookshop?”, I’d be a rich woman. The second is I have a niche job that is still fairly unknown outside the sector I work in: fauna spotter. And the third is I am female. Considered separately, these things aren’t really that uncommon in the workplace. However, altogether they make me stick out like the proverbial — and that is what happened at this meeting.
As I was representing Boobook, I made an effort to look respectable — you know, straightened my hair (my hair rivals an 80s perm), actually ironed my hi vis uniform and even put on a tiny bit of foundation. Big mistake, huge! From the moment I walked into the auditorium, the facilitator singled me out. First, we all had to do the “introduce yourself to the rest of the class” thing. Remember those three things that go against me? They came to the fore during this moment.
I should explain how I usually look when I am on the job. My PPE (personal protective equipment) includes my hi vis long-sleeved uniform, hard hat, long-handled rake, snake hook, capture bag, two-way radio hanging off my belt and (of course) my steel cap boots. I have long, dark hair that I pull back into a functional bun, and I am lucky to crack 160 cm tall with my boots on. By the end of a day of standing next to a bulldozer that’s pushing down trees or crawling around on all fours trying to catch that speedy little skink, my appearance resembles that of someone who has been standing in the middle of a cyclonic dust storm. And if you add in to the mix the unforgiving heat of summer, I usually don’t smell that great. (I always roll my eyes when I see those ads by deodorant companies that show a woman at the end of the day looking all put together and smelling of roses. Want to sell your product? Spend the day with me.)
So back to the meeting.
You can see the disconnect between the “fauna spotter” me and the “representing the business” me. After explaining who I was, what I did and where I came from, I was put on the spot and asked to do a presentation at the next safety meeting. Me. I hate, no, loathe public speaking. And why is it that the two previous Boobook representatives (both male, just saying) who attended the meeting weren’t asked to do one?
Yep, I stuck out like the proverbial …
But I wouldn’t change my job for anything. I love following the big machines around, I love catching critters and it’s quite satisfying washing off all the dirt and dust in the shower at the end of the day. And of course, I love my steal cap boots.