Last year, there was a lot of discussion on campus about racial representation in the work program, but not a lot on gender representation. This year, the student demographics are 60 percent women and 40 percent men. The work department least representative of this ratio is campus maintenance. This year, the department is only 23 percent women and 77 percent men. Last year, it was even worse with 18 percent women and 82 percent men (the female-to-male ratio of the campus was 57 to 43).
There are a few departments that generally have fewer women than men, such as technology services and athletics. There are also a few departments that have significantly more women than men, such as the learning commons and administration. These numbers, however, are not nearly as misrepresentative the female-to-male ratio of campus maintenance. When Department Manager Ryan Steen applied for the job, his number one goal was to fix this issue. This year, there are more female workers in campus maintenance than last year. He hopes these numbers will increase next semester.
Steen did say there were far more men applying for jobs in campus maintenance than women, and he wants to change that. He believes that campus maintenance is perceived as a difficult job that requires experience, and that turns away women who don’t have experience in the field. “This job provides learning tools, and applicants don’t need experience,” he said.
Steen transferred to Blackburn last year and started in the work program as a general worker. He admitted to just learning how to change the oil in a car last year, which is something that will now save him $30 every year on his own car. He said, “I will carry these skills with me forever, and these are skills that men and women can benefit from.”
If there is any discrimination against the female staff in campus maintenance, Steen would want to know about it. “I feel like it’s my responsibility,” he said. If he hears of discrimination or sexist comments towards his workers, he would sit down with the person who said it and possibly bring in the general managers and Dean of Work Angie Morenz to discuss the issue and possible consequences. He believes that everyone should feel safe at work, no matter their gender. “I don’t even want to see or hear it anywhere, much less at work,” he explained. Steen said he has very good communication with his leadership staff, so if they were to hear of anything they would report it to him.
Steen is graduating next year, but he hopes that he can set some stepping stones for the next manager. While there are more female workers in campus maintenance this semester, there is still a long way to go until it becomes close to representing the student body.