Want to hear kind of a fun, positive story? I’m a millwright, one of the few women in the trade, and I worked at the Tesla plant in Fremont, first in 2017 on the Model 3 line, and then again this year, but in a different part of the factory.
The experience building the Model 3 line was my first union millwrighting job. I turned to the trade after leaving a chemistry career heavily plagued by gender issues. That job was SO much fun, and I was also surprised that everyone on the crew I was on of about 50 people was super nice and respectful to me. (Unfortunately, the problems came after the job ended, when they all had my phone number and weren’t scared of being reported to anyone, but that is another story for another time.)
Well, I decided to join the 2018 push at the Tesla factory, and I was there on the first hiring day with maybe 200 other millwrights, some of whom I recognized. One of them, whom I did not recognize, recognized me, and came up to me and said hello and squeezed my arm. And it was just…so strange. I *might* expect a touch like that from a friend (and that’s being generous), but I didn’t know who this guy was, and when he told me how he “knew” me, we’d only spent a day on the same crew, not even working near each other. I was annoyed, but decided to ignore it.
Then I got put in a small group with him and a few other people, including another woman, and we were standing around waiting for our foreman to come pick us up, and he started telling the other woman about how when he worked at the factory in 2017, there were some good looking women around, and he and a few other guys would stand at a certain corner when they walked by at their lunchtimes so he and the group of men could ogle them. When she didn’t respond, he said, “Come onnnn! It was a joke! Hey, these girls, I mean, I’m saying…YOU would look at them like that, you know? They were incredible.”
Then the foreman picked us up in a golf cart. I sat next to the foreman in the passenger seat, and this dude sat directly behind me in the backseat, and as we were driving along, he playfully tapped me on the upper arm for some reason. And the Holy Spirit overcame me and I whirled around and said, right in front of the foreman, on the very first day:
“That’s the second time you’ve touched me today. And I’ve heard you tell a dirty joke. Before you try to tell me ‘relax’ and ‘it was just a friendly touch,’ let me tell you, I was here for a big chunk of time last year, and everyone was very respectful. Nobody else here is touching me. What you are doing stands out as unusual. STOP TOUCHING ME.”
To which the foreman responded to this dude in the most awesomely angry voice, “Do we have problem here?” I felt protected.
Now, normally, I’m not sure I’d advise women to “fly off the handle” like that, but I was thinking about leaving anyway (Tesla’s exhausting), so I didn’t really care about consequences in that situation. And that dude never bothered me again. 🙂