“People say that working on the construction site is too hard for women, they say we can’t do it, and of course I could”

Inma Ocaña, after more than ten years as a painter, has just finished the Official Certificate of Industrial Painting in Construction of the Fundación Laboral to become qualified and improve her work situation. After many years as a security guard, Inmaculada Ocaña decided to try her luck in the construction sector.

For more than a decade, Inma has dedicated herself professionally to painting, an occupation that she is enthusiastic about and in which she never stops training. She has just finished the Official Certificate of Industrial Painting in Construction with the Fundación Laboral, with the aim of being able to find a better job as a Painting Officer

QUESTION.- Why did you decide to apply for the Official Certificate of the Fundación Laboral de la Construcción?

ANSWER.- I have been working in painting for some time. I started as a pawn in 2004 and since then I have been training and working as a painter. However, I thought that with the certificate I would have a better chance of finding work, and I enrolled in the course. In addition, with this level 2 education I can now aspire to work as a Painting Officer.

Q.- Apart from being a painter, have you ever worked in a job more related to construction?

A.- Since I started in 2004, I have only worked in the sector. Whenever I have not worked as a painter, I have been doing shoddy jobs. I’ve met several officers over the years, and I’ve been working on this. I’ve learned a lot. But what I like most is painting. After the Certificate that I completed with the Fundación Laboral at the beginning of this year, I was doing a painting internship at Ifema, until recently. I really enjoyed them and I would have stayed there to work. I hope I can find a job like that soon.

Q.- Why did you decide to try your hand at construction?

A.- When I was 18 years old, I was part of the first class of women security guards in Madrid. I worked many years in security; the night schedule was very good for me to take care of my children. But there was a situation where my children grew up and I had to work many holidays during which my family was at home. When I was unemployed, they offered me this way out, which I had always liked, and here I am, trying-it.

Q.- Did you ever doubt in going to this sector because you are a woman?

A.- No, not at all. When I worked in security I had already worked with many men and I was very used to it. I didn’t step back.

Q.- How did you imagine it would be to work as a professional painter?

A.- I don’t know how far I imagined the sector before I became part of it. To tell you the truth, it didn’t surprise me too much. What frightened me most at the beginning was the first day at the construction site, but on the second day I relaxed and pushed forward. It didn’t surprise me so much.

Q.- How was your first day on a construction site?

A.- They called me when I was unemployed because they needed painters on a construction site the next day. That night I remember waking up every two or three hours, because I had been told about the work as something very hard, and I had to do the right thing. They tell you that because you’re a woman it’s going to be very hard and you’re not going to be able to do it. I told myself that I had to be able to. And of course I could!

Q.- What was the reaction of your colleagues when they saw you in the work?

A.- It was amazing: there they were all men. Some said to me: – “How do they send you to work here? I told them I was going to do the same as them: work. At first they were surprised to see me, but then they saw me painting and they saw that I was like another colleague.

Q.- What do you like most about your work as a painter?

A.- My work relaxes me a lot and excites me. I go into a place and look at a lot of details related to painting, I can’t avoid it. And when I leave a room we just painted, what I like most is the satisfaction I get when I see how well it stays. The fact is that everything is well painted and be detailed. And also always leave everything clean.

Q.- If you were born again, would you dedicate yourself to painting before you have?

A.- Don’t doubt it for a moment. I would have started when I was young. The truth is that I have sacrificed a lot in labor matters for my children, but I would make that sacrifice again. The oldest already works as an architect and the second is studying another career. I feel very proud and it was worth it.

Q.- I’m sure you’ve met people outside the building site who were also shocked to see you working in construction…

A.- When I tell people that I am a painter, they ask me about the type of paintings I paint. I tell them that I don’t paint pictures, that I paint walls, because they can’t imagine that it’s that kind of painting. But I think that, although it is a very punctual thing, every day there are more women bricklayers, painters…

Q.- Have you met more women in the play?

A.- In the works where I have been, there have been more women, but especially in the offices. In the world of painting I have met few women. There are some who are motivated to train and do internships, but in fact, there aren’t many who want to work, I think I’ve only met a couple of them.

Q.- Why do you think women don’t want to work in the sector?

A.- I think because they think it is harder work than it really is. You have to like this kind of work. People tell me that painting is a roll, but I love it, it gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Q.- Do you think it’s more difficult for you to find a job because you’re a woman?

A.- There are some offers in the sector; the key is that they want to have a woman. There are a number of prejudices against women, and more so with my age. They think that we are more curious and that we are going to be more detail-oriented. But they don’t think that physically we can be as strong as a man, and I take the cubes just like my colleagues. One day they saw me climb up a stairs and told me to get off because I could fall. Anyone who climbs can fall. Of course it can happen to me, but just like all the workers.

Q.- And have you ever been with young people?

A.- Yes, but only boys. In some courses I have met some girls, but in the construction site, only boys. Some young and very hard-working. Young people must like this. There are many who are studying or working in something else… You must like these occupations.

Q.- How do you think the sector will change in the coming years?

A.- I see it a little hard. People are needed and it’s hard for me to find a job and that means that something is not working well. But I think that something has to change because, if this continues, there will be very few young people in the future of the sector.

Q.- What would you say to a young girl who is considering entering the construction sector?

A.- I would say that if she likes it, she should cheer up, fight for it and move forward. Let her try, she’ll have it much easier than I do. I think you have to fight for what you like. I would try, without a doubt. And I would go back to doing what I’ve done, with its pros and cons. The sector is changing.

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