Public Works – Inclusive Boy’s Club

Posted on March 28, 2018

Right Now w/ Joey Garcia (LinkedIn / Twitter)

What I’m Reading  White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

What I’m Watching – All nine seasons of The Office. This show is too real sometimes.

What I’m Doing – Falling in love with my Sous Vide.

My city is fortunate enough to have a hard-working talented Operations and Engineering team. We are a full-service city maintaining and improving our infrastructure. It’s very convenient to walk over to our engineers and get some clarification on design and then turn around and have our street crews take care of it. It doesn’t always work that easy but it’s a hell of a lot better than having to modify a contract. The department is also majority male; substantially male.

Actual picture of Torrance Public Works Admin/Management/Engineering Team. (not really, close, but not really)

Our administrative and engineering staff is quite diverse. Women are in key management positions and people of color are represented at every level of the department. Take a picture of us and it would look like your stereotypical diverse employee stock picture.
There is still a lot of work to do. Like many offices (not just government) certain roles in our department are dominated by women. In our case, our administrative assistants are all women. They are the first point of contact between public works and our residents. They often get referred to as the “girls up front.” Similar to other cities, our field workers are male-dominated. Conversations in the department tend to be filled with a very bro-like content, like fishing, all seasonal sports, grilling, and golfing.

I don’t think the department isn’t close to creating an uncomfortable or unsuitable environment for women. In fact, it’s doing a better job than many other organizations that I’ve seen (also, maybe don’t call people sweetie). I haven’t heard complaints or comments from any female staff about the environment, but full disclosure, I’m a straight male. If I were ever to believe that there was an environment that was unsuitable for a women I would immediately report that, and you should too, because that ish is not gonna to fly. 

My intention is not to tell you how to deal with subtle male-culture in your office but I do hope to remind you to assess your workplace and make sure that everyone is treated like a person, including women. I am not an expert on this subject. I’d like to believe that my qualifiers are my undergraduate and graduate work in gender and ethnic studies, but again, not an expert. Bonus: my partner recently finished her graduate degree in Women’s Studies, and I’m hoping I may have absorbed some of her dissertation over the past couple of years.

I call the out hyper-masculinity at work  by bringing to their attention that I prefer nice smelling flowers and the occasional Madonna song. My coworkers tend to get confused but ultimately accept that I’d rather talk about the intricacies of whether Finding Nemo or The Incredibles deserved a sequel.

I also tend to bring up some pretty uncomfortable or challenging topics and ease people into real conversations about gender, race, and sex identity; typically these topics are discouraged in the workplace but do you really want to work in an industry where these topics are never brought up?

I also try to talk less. I naturally speak in a loud voice and want to make sure that my ideas are acknowledged, but I have to be careful not to control a conversation in room where others may as well have better or similar ideas. It’s going to take some time to change the perception of Public Works, but it’ll get there with a little effort from everyone. 

Too long; didn’t read: Public Works is a male-dominated department and can easily turn into an inclusive boy’s club if left unchecked. Do your part to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Joey Garcia is an Administrative Analyst with the City of Torrance and he occasionally tweets.

Close window