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As a woman in construction? Yes
As a woman in construction? Yes

"Blow me one, you stupid whore!" And: "For 15 you're very horny!" - Magdalena Schnabl, 23, had to listen to sayings like these many times in her job as an electrician. Despite sexism and discrimination, the girl from Graz is pushing her career.

Woman on construction
Woman on construction

If it had been up to her mother, Magdalena Schnabl, 23, would have graduated from high school to study later. "But I really wanted to do an apprenticeship," said the Graz native. "Three of my best friends trained as electricians and kept telling me how fun it is." Her mother finally allowed herself to be persuaded. Magdalena was looking for an apprenticeship and was confronted with sexism and discrimination for the first time: "I immediately heard from the first company I contacted that they are and will remain a men's workshop."

Many other companies, to which the Styrian presented, also refused. Each time with the reason: "Because you are a woman." A violation of the Equal Treatment Act that is actionable. Jurist Franz Brandstetter explains: "In previous years, for example, an entrepreneur was sentenced to pay compensation of two months' salary in a similar case. However, such proceedings or judgments are rare for several reasons cost time, money and nerves. " Magdalena also declined to file a lawsuit and went on looking.

After several attempts, she then hired a company as an apprentice

But that was just the beginning of many problems. "Especially at the beginning I had to keep hearing that I was too stupid for anything anyway and that I couldn't do anything." She experienced something similar in vocational school. "It all started with the boarding school in which we were staying was designed for a maximum of four women. If there are more women in a year, some of them have to sleep in the infirmary - on a mattress on the floor." In addition, there were constant comments from her male colleagues: "This is not a job for women. What are you doing here?" - "It is tiring to be constantly confronted with derogatory remarks," said Magdalena. "Just because they're afraid that a woman might be better than them."

Woman drills, electrician
Woman drills, electrician

"You're very horny for 15!"

However, these experiences were only the warm-up for the actual professional life. "Out of nowhere during my apprenticeship a colleague grabbed my ponytail roughly in front of the others and said: 'Now give me a blow job, you stupid whore!' I grabbed the level next to me and pulled it over his head. He then let go of me and nobody spoke about it. "The then 15-year-old only reported the incident many weeks later:" Out of shame and a kind of internal blockage. I was afraid my boss would think: Great, now I've taken on a woman and only have problems with her. I had to realize first that it wasn't my fault. At the time, I was still far too insecure."

“Today I would say, 'I'm reporting you for sexual harassment. Then we'll see how funny you think it is. ' And do it too."

The electrician experienced a number of situations like this. "When the company went on a ski trip with some of our partners, one of them said to me: 'For 15 you are really awesome!' And suddenly I had his hand between my legs. The others sat next to it and watched the whole thing without comment. He laughed out loud. Today I would say, 'I'm reporting you for sexual harassment. Then we'll see how funny you think it is. ' And do it too. At that time I stayed quiet, didn't dare to defend myself against him. Another colleague kept telling me, 'Hey, cunt!' addressed. I have often asked myself: Do I want to keep doing this to myself or should I look for another job? "

Can you even do that !?

Magdalena changed - not the industry, but the company. The people around her encouraged her to keep going because she really enjoyed the job. After completing her apprenticeship, she took on a managerial role in the field service of an electrical company. She continued to experience discrimination: "Every day when I visited customers I heard: 'But you are a woman, can you do that at all?' - 'Such a smart dirndl, but maybe the apprentice should do that?' Or: 'Don't you have a man to send me?' " Magdalena's counterattack was always the same, friendly but determined: "Look, I'm just as well trained as my male colleagues, I manage customer service. Either let me do it now or you can call another company."

"I don't want to be reduced to my gender anymore."

Instead of being dragged down by remarks like these, the 23-year-old decided at some point to use the negative energy as an incentive: "I thought to myself: I will prove to all of you that I can do this job well - regardless of mine Gender. I just don't want to be reduced to that anymore. When you ask a teacher why she chose the profession, you want to hear her personal reasons. They ask me because I'm a woman. I want to do my part to stop this kind of sexism in the job. That these stupid stereotypes and prejudices are finally a thing of the past. And while we're at it: No, by the way, I'm not a lesbian either."

Woman on construction
Woman on construction

But there are also positive experiences and moments: "Many customers, especially women, called and insisted that I come. 'She doesn't explain things in such a disparaging way," they said. It has always been important to me to communicate with my counterpart at eye level. And that really matters. " Also that Magdalena always made time for her visits. "With older people in particular, it's often about more than repairing and maintaining the equipment. Many of them have been alone for a long time. 'When will I finally die? I don't want to anymore", a customer once asked me said: 'Come here, you are not alone.' Many male colleagues often lack the empathy for this. "

Finally a private toilet

Her last project was the construction site management for a residential building in Graz: "Before the master course, which I have been attending since last September, I wanted to supervise a larger construction site myself in order to develop my skills." There she finally experienced a lot of appreciation and recognition, and for the first time felt that she was being taken seriously and respected. "It is the first time in eight years that I have worked on construction sites that I have been given my own toilet. On the door there is a note with my name on it, and when one of the colleagues wants to go in, the others say: ' Can't you read? This is Magdalena's loo. ' Before that, I always had to share one thing with men. It basically sounds pretty absurd that I'm happy about something like this because it should be taken for granted. But that's still not the case in this industry. And for me it shows that, albeit slowly, something is happening."

Having your own toilet can really only be a small intermediate step on the arduous path to equality. "We women have to stick together and fight back. We have to show men who are still discriminated against that we simply cannot put up with it. It may have worked for a long time, but not now. So many still believe they are the 'oh so strong sex' and overlook what we do besides our jobs, such as most of the child-rearing, the household while they would long collapse under all our to-dos. They also finally need to realize that not only can we do the same things as them, but that we often do them better than them. This realization will hurt some, but I'm sure you will survive."

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