Men’s Attitudes

In the early days some male employees found it difficult to accept women working at Ford, but as more women joined over the years attitudes changed.

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I got made up to a senior supervisor and then I was transferred as a senior supervisor, a sideways move into the Paint Shop, which obviously involved me then working shifts and I earned a lot more money doing so. So to me I’d then crossed into the area I was on a level playing field as such.

So I was the first woman supervisor in the Dagenham Assembly Plant. The majority of people were very nice but I did have a group of supervisors in the Paint Shop that didn’t want to speak to me. Partly because they thought they had wanted the position that I had got.

So there was resentment from that aspect and also there was mutterings like ‘Who’s she to tell me?’ So because they felt that I wasn’t a sprayer, so who was I to come and tell them anything? And they’d make comments like ‘Oh I’ve got one of them at home I don’t come in here to be told by her as well.’

I think they thought it was a break away from, you know, perhaps their henpecking wives at home and they didn’t want to come into work and be told, certainly by a woman, what to do.

Debbie B

Our intake was the first intake they actually employed women on the line. So there was a lot of interest in that, you know. At first, a lot of the blokes were, they either wanted to do their jobs for them, you know, ‘Don’t worry about that, love, I’ll do that, I’ll cover you. You go and do your hair or something.’

Or, it was either the exact opposite – ‘I had to learn that in a day, you’ve got to learn it in a day.’ ‘I’m not doing all their lifting for ‘em, they think they’re going to get a clean job, I get a dirty one, they get paid the same as me.’

Then there were a lot of other people who were sort of all wolf whistling and the banter. But after a couple of weeks it just become the norm, they were just treated and accepted exactly the same as everybody else.

Philip L

I think the first two weeks the older generation, because obviously at the time I was 21, the blokes that were in their late 50s or 60, they thought that the women should be at home at the kitchen sink. And they didn’t want to train me nothing at all so it was hard the first two weeks.

Nobody wanted to train me. My supervisor ended up training me because the blokes refused to do it. [laughs] So for the first two-three weeks it was hard, and I think it took quite a while for them to accept that a woman’s coming in.

And there was one particular one right opposite me working and he was just as if he was trying to cause trouble all the time, he didn’t want to help me out nothing at all. And if I did something wrong, he’d wait for it to go right round the line and go, ‘You did that wrong over there’.

And I’d think, you could have told me when I did it wrong ‘cos I’m obviously learning. So, yeah, it was pretty hard in the beginning.

Nicola H

That was a bit tricky at first, because I was the first female supervisor in this plant, so that was a bit unusual for some of the guys. I mean, I did have a few issues with a Shop Steward at the time, but eventually we sort of got over it. But it was all a steep learning curve I remember, but, yeah, I mean I enjoyed it.

I did have a few barneys with people and a few run-ins and a few in-the-toilets crying so people can’t see you. Don’t ever let them see you cry, because you’ve had it then. Yeah, there was ups and downs but I was glad that I done it.

I mean you had certain people who didn’t want to do what I told them because they thought I was too young and as a woman I didn’t know what I was talking about. But then obviously, I had people who just accepted that I’d been made a supervisor and so not everyone was like that.

But obviously in a group of people you get people who do lots to help you, you get people who just plod along, you get people who will do anything they can to trip you up. So you’ve always got that mix of people wherever you work, I think.

Claire S