Thursday, February 20, 2020

Sign of the times

     There is a first time for everything.
     For me, the first inclusive construction sign, "MEN AND WOMEN AT WORK" was spied last Sunday on a hoarding around a new building going up at 60 Charlton Street in Soho, next to the Four Points Sheraton we were staying at.
     Of course.
     Female construction workers are still a rarity: 3.4 percent, according to The Institute for Women's Policy Research, though that rises to 1 in 10 if you consider back office and administrative roles in the construction rate.  Women, perhaps surprisingly, enjoy more equity in construction, being paid 94 cents for every dollar earned by a man (compared to 81 cents on the dollar generally).
    The signs were introduced in September, 2018, by Plaza Construction as part of their "female-friendly initiative," according to the New York Post.
   I like the signs because they are an example of positive usage: trying to change attitudes by changing your own behavior, rather than hectoring others to change theirs. I assume Plaza Construction doesn't go around yanking down less enlightened "Men at Work" signs. 
    Speaking of the new building, it inspires a funny moment when we first checked in. The clerk gave us a room on the 16th floor. We went to it, set down our bags, opened the curtains, and saw four construction workers, at eye level, on a scaffolding 10 feet away. My wife waved at them. One waved back.
    The room was loud. My wife and I looked at each other, picked up our bags, and went back downstairs and asked for another room. The Four Points clerk was very nice about it, and gave us a room on the 20th floor, on the opposite side of the building. We went up to that, dropped our bags, and realized that it was far, far louder than the first room had been. 
     "But this is the last time," I told my wife as we went downstairs. The Four Points clerk was, again, incredibly nice returning key cards to the first room to us. Now it seemed much quieter, by comparison, and noise never bothered us. We slept like babes.


  1. Pardon my hector . I respectfully suggest to be inclusive : people working as a better alternative . Also with the strength of unions in the construction trades everybody gets paid the same wage for the same work. This may account for less of a disparity in pay in this field ?

  2. I always sort of liked the generic masculine -- when in doubt, use he/him, but I wasn't especially disturbed by the generic feminine that became popular while I was in law school -- didn't know there were so many wicked women in the world. But they and them instead of he/him, she/her is hard to take, the very thing most disturbing to English teachers, a reference that doesn't match its antecedent. If I last another 20 years, I guess I'll still be able to read English, but won't know how to discriminate between good English and bad.


  3. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but somehow the addition of “AND WOMEN” to the sign almost feels like a mild condescension.
    “WORKERS ON THE PREMISES” would be perfect.

  4. I agree with SandyK — why not just workers? Restaurants changed waiters and waitresses to wait staff quite awhile ago. Too bad about your room. Glad you could fall asleep!


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