Our Employee Editorial this month is written by Carisa Wenstrom. Carisa is our Multimedia Specialist Lead and Director of People & Culture and has been working at Crisp Marketing for over 3 years. In the spirit of Sadie Hawkins day, Carisa shares her personal female empowerment experience.
Today is Sadie Hawkins Day. The history of this day goes back to 1937 when cartoonist Al Capp published a Li’l Abner comic strip in which the unmarried women of Dogpatch had their choice of bachelors to “marry up.” Behind this façade of archaic humor lies a message of female empowerment, and a message for women to chase after what they want instead of waiting for it to be handed to them.
While the usual tradition for this day is the ever-popular Sadie Hawkins Dance held by high schools and colleges across the country, this day can also hold a special meaning for any woman who has faced challenges of overcoming sexism and assumptions based on the sole fact of being female. I’m one of those women. And in the spirit of this awesome day, I’d like to share my story.
Years and years ago (in a far away land), I started a new job at a factory. I was hired in through a “hiring pool”, which is when a company needs to fill many positions of similar caliber at once and brings on a group of people at the same time rather than one-by-one. I passed the assessments with flying colors and was offered a position on an assembly line, alongside a few other men who had similar work experience as myself.
A few weeks later, product demand went up for our line, and we needed to expand production. They needed more MIG welders, and offered the new positions to all the new assembly line people. Well, everyone but myself. I was confused since all of us had similar job experience (or lack thereof), so I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t included in this change. None of us had previous welding experience, yet I was the only one not included. I asked my Lead if I could be moved up to the weld line as well, to which he responded with a laugh before saying, “No. Girls don’t weld.” That’s when it dawned on me. The guys had been moved to the weld line. The one woman in the group (me) was left on assembly. I was livid. This was my first face-to-face encounter with blatant sexism, and I wouldn’t tolerate it.
I went to the higher-ups and told them what happened, and that I wanted to be moved to the weld line. I knew this would cause turbulence between my Lead and I, but I was willing to sacrifice that in exchange for equal treatment. Just like everyone else on that line, I was there to work and earn a paycheck, not make friends. A few days later, my Lead approached me and told me, “Fine, I’ll move you to the weld line. But you have one day to learn how to weld, or I move you back to assembly.” Now, the other guys were assured they’d have weeks of training. I was given one day. So I said, “Ok, deal.” I moved up to the weld line, and I learned how to MIG weld in one day. My trainer, who at the time had 17 years of welding experience, told me he’d never seen anyone pick up the skill that fast and was impressed. I used that to fuel my motivation, and worked as hard as I could to be a damn good welder.
I faced other challenges after that of course. I made over $1.50 less per hour than my male counterparts. If they skipped bathroom breaks, I had to skip them as well. I had nasty things said to my face, and behind my back. I ended up filing two separate sexual harassment complaints. It was the kind of things you read about and think, “Geez, how can people be so barbaric?” Then you experience it for yourself and realize it’s actually worse than you imagined it. But at the time, going through that, I told myself that it comes with the territory. I pushed hard to get to where I was, and I wasn’t going to give that up for anything.
In the end, not only did I become a damn good welder, but I became one of the best welders on our line (second only to my experienced trainer). I was fast, accurate, and I could patch any hole my weld partners blew through the thin metal frames we worked on. I was proud of myself. It’s one of the few times in my life where I could stop and say, “Yup. THAT’S how it’s done.” Even through the trials and tribulations, I had come out of the dark tunnel stronger and more confident in who I was, and what I was capable of. One of the best feelings in the world is when you completely shock the hell out of yourself. To this day, if I’m struggling with something or feeling like I don’t have the strength to move forward, I do my best to remember that feeling. It’s the reminder I need to tell myself that I’ve totally got this.
While others might see this day as another silly holiday, I see it from a different perspective. It’s a message to other women out there, fighting their own “weld line” battles. Don’t just stand there, waiting for something that may never arrive. Take that first step. Rock the boat. Create some waves. And go after what you want. Because you’ve totally got this. Happy Sadie Hawkins Day!