Why working on this book felt good

This is A Job For Mommy! An A-Z Adventure is coming out this week (and for sale!), and I am sitting with how good it feels to have created artwork for a project whose message I believe in so fully. In Keegan Connor Tracy’s book, “Mommy” has had 26 careers (one for every letter of the alphabet) and shares her experiences with her daughter in rhyming verse.

With a focus on jobs that are not traditionally considered “feminine” occupations, Keegan encourages readers to consider that women and girls can do any work – from the messy and physically demanding to the silly, scientific and adventurous.

Having supported diverse learners in school settings for the past nine years, this really resonates with me. Though we are comfortable with encouraging girls to strive academically, when academics are not a female student’s strength, girls are not encouraged to pursue the trades and manual, necessary community work (like electricians, mechanics, landscapers, etc.) in the same way as boys. Elective shop classes, for example, are often made up of predominantly male students.

In my experience, girls tend to see themselves occupying roles related to the beauty or fashion industry much more readily, or in caring or serving professions where women are currently heavily represented.

window washer

This is one of the reasons W is one of my favourite jobs of Mommy. For W, Mommy is a window washer! This is the type of job, like many roles relating to building maintenance and construction, that I think many girls would not envision themselves in. Maybe window washing is not usually considered glamorous, but it’s important, and pays what would generally be considered a living wage.

The ability to choose work that supports us is central to financial autonomy, which is essential to being able to make choices for ourselves, and self-determination is key to equality for girls and women.

There is so much work that is considered “men’s work” by default, not because it needs anything that men specifically have to offer, but because the historic domination by men in every field of paid work has not been eroded in that particular category. I’m thinking of how often it is easy to let the term “work men” slip off the tongue. Because most of the people we see doing everyday work in the community – like construction, automotive repair, electrical or plumbing work and other jobs that occupy the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), are men.

These are all good jobs, and there is no reason women could not, theoretically, be doing them. Indeed, it is projected that there will be a shortage of one million skilled trade workers by 2020, so women are actually needed to step into these roles. But preparing girls for jobs in skilled labour, manufacturing and trades has to be worked into how they view themselves at a young age, so they can even imagine themselves in the world of physically engaging, often messy “men’s work.” Employers are calling for training for girls in STEM as they recognize that it is a cultural and educational shift that needs to occur to correct the gender imbalance.

So, it feels good to contribute to something that can help shift how girls might project themselves in the future of work. Keegan chose a mix of kinds (and importantly, class) of occupations – blue collar, entrepreneurial, community service, sports, entertainment – and on the page all the jobs are elevated to something that is fun, exciting and meaningful.

I feel super lucky that I got asked to do work that I find meaningful in creating the illustrations and design for this book. I never take it for granted that it’s because I was told, as a daughter at home, and student at school, that I could.

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