Holly has been working at a large construction company for three years. Although an intern, Holly has earned the respect of her peers. Her supervisor (and project manager), along with her coworkers, constantly support her by teaching her new materials and encouraging her to tackle new tasks. For one specific project, her supervisor chose her to visit the jobsite for the construction of flood retaining walls. Holly is familiar with the protocol required by her company, and her boss trusts her to always wear protective equipment every time she goes into the field.
However, when she went to the job site for this project, she heard someone yell, “Be careful not to break a nail!” while she was walking down a particularly steep mud slope. She dismissed the comment at first, but throughout the remainder of the project, different construction workers would make condescending remarks and gestures at her. They would call her ‘Princess’ or hold out their arms as though expecting her to fall, slip, or hurt herself.
Holly feels she is being treated disrespectfully because of her gender, but never brings it up to her supervisor as the workers were subcontracted from various companies by the General Contractor. Holly doesn’t feel right getting other people in trouble for such little comments, and is worried long term about how her success might be affected if she makes a complaint.
Should Holly say something?
Nabilah Deen was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.