These women are breaking barriers and getting things done.
“Women’s work” is a term traditionally used to narrow career possibilities and reinforce gender roles. But what if it wasn’t?
A new photo series from Reuters explores the great diversity of what women at work look like around the world, across dozens of professions. Created to commemorate #BeBoldForChange, the theme of International Women’s Day 2017, the photo series gives an up-close-and-personal look at the progress women have made in the workplace, as well as the struggles that lie ahead.
Here are 11 of those kickass women talking about the sexism they’ve faced even as they break down barriers and redefine what it means to be a woman at work.
1. Paloma Granero, 38, a skydiving instructor from Madrid, Spain.
“Men don’t have to prove themselves like we do. We are tested every day,” said Granero. “The instruction jobs still go mostly to men, whereas the administrative jobs go mostly to women.”
2. Mado, 34, is an artist from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“Once a company did not want to hire me to paint a mural because they said that women could not carry the work material (paint boxes, ladders),” Mado said. “I believe that things will only get better for all of us if men treat women equally.”
3. Ivonne Quintero is a chef living in Mexico City.
“There are many limitations in the kitchen for being female. I had two men under my charge and they did not do what I asked them to do in the kitchen because I was a woman,” said Quintero.
4. Merylee is a 26-year-old soldier in Nice, France.
“The parity in the army already exists,” said Merylee. “It is the uniform that takes precedence over gender.”
5. Julia Argunova, 36, is a mountaineering instructor in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“Physical strength benefits male colleagues in some situations on harder routes,” she said, posing 10,500 feet above sea level in the Tien Shan mountains. “But, women are more concentrated and meticulous. In general, women are better at teaching. My main professional task is to teach safe mountaineering.”
6. 34-year-old Lejla Selimovic is a furniture restorer from Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“In my country this is an unusual profession for a woman, but so far I have not met anyone seeing it in a negative context,” Selimovic said. “People are often surprised, but essentially only interested in a job well done.”
7. Sarah Hunter is a 31-year-old rugby player in West London.
“I think that if we’re the right person for the right job in the workplace then so be it and the same for men,” said the RFU University rugby development officer. “I’ve worked for the RFU, and being what is deemed as a male sport perhaps in the past, I was welcomed into that environment and I personally haven’t experienced gender inequality in the workplace, so I think that I’ve been very fortunate in the career that I’ve had and in the jobs that I’ve had that I’ve been seen for the person that I am and not for the gender that I am.”
8. Alice Temperley, 41, is a fashion designer from London.
“I don’t think the fashion industry suffers from [gender inequality] like other industries necessarily. I do think though, I have to say, there’s not that many women designers because the intensity of being the designer and the seasons and the churn of it and having children and being a woman, I think that’s why a lot of bigger designers are men. I don’t think that’s a sexist thing, I think you have to be very strong to be able to take the pace. … There are different issues in our industry,” Temperley said during London Fashion Week.
9. Filipina Grace Ocol is a 40-year-old backhoe operator in Tubay, Agusan del Sur, southern Philippines.
“There are a few female workers that can drive big trucks and backhoe,” the mother of three said. “If men can do it, why can’t women do it? I’m better than the men, they can only drive trucks here but I can drive both.”
10. 45-year-old Claudia Concha Parraguez is a pole-dancing instructor living in Santiago, Chile.
“Some students with low self-esteem smile more and feel beautiful after training. But because of the poor mentality of their husbands, who do not see this activity as a sport and associate it with something sexual, they stop attending classes,” she said.
11. Dr. Catherine Reynolds, 37, is a scientific researcher in London.
“Women are very well represented at junior levels in biological sciences research. At a senior level it is still true that there are fewer female professors in science, but the gap is slowly closing,” the Imperial College researcher said. “More policies that promote flexible working and that support staff in taking career breaks (both men and women) are an essential way in which it is possible for employees, especially those with young families, to realize their full potential in the workplace.”
So there you have it. “Women’s work” is any job a woman is doing or any job that women want to do. The days of “women’s work” being an indicator of workplace gender-role reinforcement aren’t over yet — but the more we see and share stories of women accomplishing great things in every industry, the closer we get to moving into a future where that’s the case.