Tag: wage gap
Women at Work: Tess (Cobbler/Shoemaker)
Editor’s Note: I’m excited to present our third interview in the series! (Check out 1 and 2 as well!) We talked to Tess, who works in a rather unusual industry—as a cobbler’s apprentice. As someone who knows basically nothing about the handcrafts industry, it was cool to talk to someone who is following such a unique path. Read on below:
What do you do for a living?
I’m a cobbler’s apprentice right now. Cobbling doesn’t have an educational requirement/school, so everyone tends to start as an apprentice.
What does a typical day on the job look like for you?
I am admittedly still learning and there is an insane amount of little things to memorize. Typically, I come in and am shadowing someone for the day, whether that is on the glueing side of the shop, or the finishing side. I often am helping someone work through their rack of shoes, and in down time, I am doing a lot of varied shop prep work. This has included stuff like cutting and glueing new rands for rock climbing shoes, cutting down large leather pieces into small leather heel pads, taking the stock order weekly, preparing halfsoles to be used for those day’s shoes, etc.
Something that I really love about the work is the variety and that I have yet to have one day that was the same as the one prior.
How did you decide to become a cobbler’s apprentice? How much longer do you have as an apprentice, and then what is the process like after that? How much do you make?
Last year, I was working in a handmade papermaking mill, doing mostly bookbinding type work, across the country from where I live currently (which is also where I grew up). I had a partner back home, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at work, and I was just ready to leave town. I knew I wanted to keep working a workshop environment but I was hoping to keep away from heavy trades (like carpentry, welding, etc) because those don’t interest me much. I ended up cold calling a bunch of cobblers in the city I wanted to live in, and it worked out for me!
As it is, somedays I am given a few pairs to do repairs on. Right now, it’s mostly simple stuff, basic hand-sewing and glueing, sanding things down, etc. When I am fully trained, it will look pretty similar to what I do now, except more work and more complicated work. In the morning, I’ll be assigned a much bigger pile of shoes to work through, aha.
Right now, I make 12$CAD an hour (9$USD) but I’m told that gets raised pretty regularly, after training and assuming I’m still doing solid work.
I’m definitely the baby of the shop still, so it’s hard to say how long I will be apprenticing for! Probably six months to a year, if I had to estimate.
Very cool! I feel like not many people our age are in touch with this kind of smaller-scale craft work. Are you worried about the growth of your industry, or are you not planning to stay in it definitely?
I’ve had a pretty niche set of jobs and I really strive to stay connected to smaller crafts, because I think they are really valuable as an industry (even if it’s a small one). I’m definitely intending to stick with cobbling. In school, I actually studied papermaking but when I went to do it as a “career”, it just wasn’t for me. So it’s been really encouraging to find something with some familiar hand-skills, that I really love.
In regards to growth, I am not so worried. There has been a big push on online fashion communities, that appears to be trickling into the mainstream culture, that we should be buying buy-it-for-life and better quality products in general. Ideas like this are imperative to cobbling continuing to strive, so I am very grateful for a shift.
Was cobbling traditionally a male-dominated field, and how does it compare today? Do you see any gap in wages between men and women in your field, or any other areas where you think the conditions for women could improve? (I.e. Things like maternity leave?)
Cobblers themselves are mostly men, I’d say. It’s hard to say why exactly, other than it’s a blue collar industry. And realistically, it’s also one that isn’t very innovative or having changed much, so I sense it isn’t one that has really made a shift to encouraging women to get involved. As well, lots of people aren’t sure how to break into the industry. Our shop is about 20% women, which is pretty low compared to other industries.
Something that our shop does that I really appreciate is always having a cobbler on the front intake counter. This position rotates every shift and that person is also working on shoes in between customers. As a woman, this feels like it reinforces that we are not just cashiers or front-of-house people, but that we also are the ones doing the dirty work.
I would say that the majority of cobbling shops are one-man-stands, ran by slightly older gentlemen who have been doing it a really long time. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next 20 years.
I don’t see any wage gaps, but it may also be because the industry is so small and there are so few people really vying to get into it. Most people are hired as apprentices by a man in his one-man-stand, so there aren’t a lot of fellow female coworkers to compare wages with, unfortunately.
Tess is making a pair of shoes from scratch and documenting the process on tumblr. You can follow along here!
Weekly Dance Break: Ain’t Your Mama (J. Lo)
Jenny From the Block takes on working women tropes and unequal divisions of labor, all while wearing a pair of ass-less chaps (no comment). Other gems? A serious purple power-suit, a nod to BumbleBFF, and a crowd of awakened women dancing in the streets. But seriously, about the oppressive men in this video—where did she even find those living Ken-dolls? 😂
Women at Work: Eileen (Writer/Editor)
Editor’s Note: I am very excited to introduce the inaugural interview of our new series, “Women at Work.” This series aims to open up conversations about what work women do, what aspects of work they find fulfilling, and what improvements can be made to their part of the American workplace. We’ll talk to women in a broad range of fields, in different stages of their careers. Greater transparency benefits everyone! Our first interview is with 91-year-old Eileen Lavine, a retired editor who began her career several decades ago.
Yes, I had a strong sense of direction – I did not want to major in journalism, but rather in American Institutions, an inter-department major where I concentrated in political science, history, sociology and economics, all much more valuable for journalism.
When I graduated, I went to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received my M.S. degree. Then I worked as a reporter and Assistant Sunday Editor on the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times for about 2 years. I then came back home to New York and worked as an assistant to Dorothy Gordon, who had youth forums on radio for the New York Times – my job was doing forums at junior and senior high schools around the city on current events and cultural issues. After 2 years, my job ended and with my generous severance pay I went on a six-week Grand Tour of Europe, ending up in Paris where I stayed for a year doing some free-lance writing for UNESCO and the Economic Cooperation Administration (US Marshall Plan). When I came back home, I became editor of a welfare and health newspaper published by the Community Council of New York. I married and was doing free-lance writing when my first child was born, then we moved to Washington, DC (my husband was an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission) – and I started doing part-time work for a nonprofit association in the medical field, writing and editing newsletters and other materials.
In 1968, a group of us – all women whose husbands were employed – incorporated ourselves as Information Services, Inc., an editorial business that produced newsletters, brochures, conference proceedings,, public relations programs, etc. mostly for health and education organizations and government agencies. I was President of the company for much of its existence and also was active in the formation of the National Association of Women Business Owners. We were a low-key firm, mostly housewives working part time on a variety of assignments. It was quite unique at the time, but we were fortunate in that the organization that had brought us together in the first place continued to pay for the rent and office supplies, and also most of us had husbands who were working and had health benefits. Our company closed in 1998. Since that time I have been a volunteer, first as a mentor for young Black and Latino students in reading and acculturation projects and a member of the Board of Directors of the organization sponsoring this program , and for the past eight years, I have been a senior editor at Moment Magazine, a bi-monthly publication founded 40 years ago by Elie Wiesel as an independent magazine on Jewish cultural, social and political issues. I have written articles for the magazine, and I do copy editing and proofreading for each issue.
Yes, my family and friends strongly supported my ambitions to be a journalist. From my high school days, I always went to the 070 section in the public library to read books about journalists. My father, who was a doctor, died when I was 10, and my mother was very supportive of me and my two sisters in everything we did, from going to college out of town, working on the high school newspaper, and going to graduate school (I lived at home that year). My friends also had career goals, and most of my close friends worked after college and after they were married (although most, I believe, stopped working when they first had children, returning to work in later years). I don’t recall any friends of the family questioning my ambitions. My older sister, who graduated from college in 1941, got a master’s in economics at Columbia, worked for several yeas after she married, then returned to work when her sons were older. Ditto for my younger sister. There was never any pressure for any of us to do anything else.
Obviously, women in general have many more opportunities today – but remember, my college years were during World War II and women took over many jobs at that time. Some of my friends in college accelerated to get out of college in 3 years instead of 4 to take advantage of these jobs.
For a year in 1948 I worked on two trade magazines, before my job opened up at the NY Times, and the staffs were all women including the top editors. At Moment, the staff is almost all women, except for the design and production manager. We have had male fellows for one-year stints, but the latest fellows have been female. I am continually impressed at the professionalism, capability and skill of all these women – and it has been a real pleasure for me to work with them.
We didn’t discuss gendered wage gaps at Information Services because we were all part-time housewives whose husbands made most of the family income. So we really had no concern about the issue. However, we did march in support of the ERA and that was a big topic of discussion among us all.
As far as improving the working conditions of women today, I think professionally, women have made their marks already at the top levels of many fields, including journalism. The major issue today is how to improve working conditions for women at the lower end [of the job spectrum], to give them education and training so that they can move up and aspire to better jobs.
Our next interview is with Eileen’s daughter, Amy! What kinds of working women would you like to see us interview?
Know someone who wants to share their workplace experiences? Contact us :)