This is Kim: one of the guys, who loves her work
A team of twenty men and a single woman. Does that really work? Definitely, says Kim de Wit, Work Planner at Strukton Rail. She has been working on the railway for years and doesn’t want it any other way.
To some extent I have always been one of the guys. No nonsense but getting down to work, that’s what I like
What are you doing there, among all these men? I regularly hear it from the people around me, who react with surprise when I tell them that I work on the railway. “Oh, for the Dutch National Railways, at their head office?” they then ask me. No, I really work on the railway: rails, switches, overhead lines, signalling, sleepers, ballast: they no longer hold any secrets for me, I know everything there is to know about renovating tracks. I am a work planner and I also am the local environment manager for the BBV Limburg project we are currently working on. My team members – some twenty in all – are all men. Things are going extremely well and I totally enjoy my work.
In the almost ten years I have been working on the railway (initially as a temp worker and since 2018 at Strukton) I have become just as infected with the railway virus as my male colleagues. It is hard work, even at night, but I control my own work schedule. We are given a certain scope and are then allowed to determine ourselves how we will carry out the required activities (naturally in consultation with the client). When are we going to renovate the switches? How? In what sequence? Where do we locate the depots for our materials?
Another extremely enjoyable part of my work is the construction coordination services. We take turns providing these services and when it’s my turn I am outside with my implementing colleagues. I keep track of the schedule’s progress and if necessary consult with the team to determine whether any adjustments are required. I also speak with the people outside, such as welders, track layers and machinists. All men as well.
“I also appreciate men’s humour, even when the jokes are about sex”
Time for a little grumbling
To some extent I have always been one of the guys. No nonsense but getting down to work, that’s what I like. In conversations I also like the directness that seems to characterise most men. Telling it like it is, time out for some grumbling at each other and then on with the work. I also appreciate men’s humour, even when the jokes are about sex. In fact, I like to join in. But sometimes you have to be really careful, because it can encourage men to cross any and all boundaries. That’s of course unacceptable and furthermore, as a woman you run the risk that your colleagues no longer take you seriously in your work or that they view you as a sex object.
Calling on a farmer
Fortunately that is not the case for me. My colleagues respect me, although I really had to earn that respect. But that would be true in a mixed group of male and female colleagues as well, so I only consider this normal. Furthermore, I don’t have the feeling that I had to work harder for this than a work planner in training. Aside from this, I really like my work so I am happy to put in the effort.
To be perfectly honest, from time to time I shamelessly make use of the fact that I am the only woman. I have noticed that sometimes I can get more done than my male colleagues. For example, when we need to use a piece of land of a farmer for one of our depots, we may have better results if I call on the farmer – neatly dressed – rather than one of the men on my team.
“To be perfectly honest, from time to time I shamelessly make use of the fact that I am the only woman”
I would recommend any woman to start working in an outside job at Strukton. Better yet, I would cheer them on, because I would consider it super to have some more women on my team. My work is substantively enjoyable and challenging, and Strukton is a great company to work for. Although many people work here, I experience a real family feeling here. And I am surrounded by a great team of people and that of course is the most important.
People who after reading this blog still think that working with men is the greatest challenge in my work, are totally missing the point: the biggest challenge is the local environment. Local residents living near railway renovation projects complain about noise pollution, dust and vibration. Furthermore, we need many depots as a result of which we have to inconvenience a lot of owners by storing materials on their property. This is why I spend a lot of time on informing people and cultivating understanding. When necessary, I drop by. Neatly dressed, with a delicious pie in hand. This is something they really appreciate in this province (Limburg).