When people think of women working in the oil industry, there is an unfortunate stereotype that they are all a bunch of butch ladies with plaid vests and 80’s hairstyles. In reality though, many of them are just regular gurls like you and I. The only difference is that they have the thick skin to put up with name-calling, stereotypes and special treatment by men in the field. And by special treatment I don’t mean nicer camps or better meals. I’m talking about getting assigned to easier jobs that “a woman can handle.” Thankfully, women are becoming more and more involved with the oil industry so it is about time that the stereotypes are put to rest.
I was able to get in touch with a great friend of mine who is currently working in the industry at Focus Corporation in Fort Saint John, British Columbia. Shoniece Wilkinson, 19, is a Survey Assistant which means she works on the legal side of the oil field by posting pipeline right-of-ways, flagging well sites and setting well centres. When I asked her what it’s like to be a female working in a male-dominated industry, I was pleasantly surprised when she went on about how well the guys actually treat her on the job.
“It can be tough at times being a woman in the industry, especially being so young. I have been very blessed with all of the men I work with. They treat me so well,” Wilkinson said.
She also mentioned that it does help to have a thick skin out there because despite the respect she gets from her co-workers, Wilkinson does have to remind them that she can do the physically-demanding jobs that the men don’t think she’s capable of doing. And as expected, she does admit that there are some stereotypes that come with her work.
“It goes one of two ways: You are either called a dyke for working a man’s job or, what they like to call up here, a camp slut. Both are very insulting and immature names because, if you ask me, I’m just an ordinary gurl working hard to provide for myself,” Wilkinson said.
I asked her what her favorite part of being a woman on the rigs is, and Wilkinson confidently replied, “my favorite part is simply the ability to say I’m one of those women because so many people applaud me for it. It makes me a stronger person and it shows everyone that we can do this thing and rock it!”
When asked if she thinks that men will become more accepting of women working up north, Wilkinson states that the industry has come a long way from how it used to be.
“Seeing gurls out there in this industry is a lot more common than ever before,” she says, adding that, “A woman can do anything a man can do and I am honored to be able to speak on behalf of it.”
Wilkinson is a perfect example of the fact that women on the rigs are no different than women here in the city. She is working hard to make sure that the stereotype is broken for good and she is not letting any men stop her. If they did try, she would have no problem getting them out of the way. Women are beautiful, strong and capable of doing anything men can do. It’s just a matter of breaking down the stereotype.