This is an ongoing story that I fear will not have a succinct ending. It has been an ongoing trend since I started my training being paired up with other PMPs. I suppose that being that this is a male-dominated field, and a “gross” or “dirty” job, people are surprised to see a female coming around to scrape dead mice out of traps, or heroically fend off bugs. Since I started working solo, I have quite literally had daily comments from customers, tenants, and strangers alike in regards to my gender.
Most are fairly innocent, from “I’ve never seen a girl exterminator. You’re so brave!” to other ladies saying “Wow, I could never do something like that, I don’t know how you can manage it!” On a slightly more degrading level, I get quite a few people asking “Wow, a lady. You work all by yourself?” and when it comes to flipping furniture or moving fridges and stoves, “Can you manage that? Do you need help with that?” Often, even when I politely dismiss the assistance offered, people try to help anyway. Pro-tip: it doesn’t help, chances are you’re just in my way.
There have been a few times where people have simply been overtly sexist. One instance that stands out to me was when I was still in training. I was in an apartment building with a fellow PMP who was training me, and we were going to meet with the Resident Manager so we could be let into suites to treat. Equipment in hand, we walk down the hall to meet the waiting RM, and as we get closer I see him greet my co-worker, and then his eyes go to me and his expression changes from cordial to confused and vaguely put out. He looks from my co-worker back to myself, and then, addressing my co-worker, “Wow! A girl? In pest control?! Hahaha is nothing sacred anymore?” This is followed by awkward laughter, and as the RM turns around to unlock the suite for us, we exchange looks. Once we are in the suite and the RM has left, my co-worker apologizes to me for laughing with the RM at his comment, and we muse over how inappropriate it was.
At the time, I thought that it was a one-off encounter. It turns out, in talking to fellow female PMPs, it is uncomfortably common. We are equally as qualified as our male counterparts, and we do our jobs to the same standard. And yes, I am stronger than I look.