The first time I saw my name on a placard at the supermarket, I felt nervous.
A man with the same name had just arrived.
My mum had to make sure I was OK, she said.
I didn’t have to do much thinking about it, she was worried about my safety.
My first year in Australia as a factory assistant, I was nervous.
I had been a worker for over a decade and my boss was my supervisor.
I was not allowed to speak to other workers and I was given little freedom.
“It’s the first time that I’ve ever been in a factory,” said my new boss, a man in his early 40s.
“I’m very nervous because I’m a female.”
But as the years went by, he grew more confident, confident in his new role.
He told me about his new family, his new business, his work environment.
He showed me around.
I saw that the company had a small office, the people worked in the field and he said they were in the process of building a factory there.
He had the support of his team.
And he had a woman, a new arrival, who was a factory secretary.
I asked why.
He said it was for a very specific reason.
He was worried that she would not be able to cope with the new jobs and the demands of the job.
“You have to be able not to be scared of any one person,” he said.
He encouraged me to stay and get the new experience.
It was good.
But I didn.
The new job I had to do was not the same as the previous one.
I got to work in the kitchen and I had a new boss.
It felt a lot different.
The day before, I’d had the day off and I felt exhausted, I had missed a day of work, I could not be with my family.
I felt like I needed to work harder and faster.
I would get up, and I would not get to eat, because my boss told me that I could only eat with other women.
So I’d have to put my head down and do my job.
My boss, who is now a father, told me it was important that I was strong and that I had my own ideas.
I could be an employee, he said, but I could also be a manager.
“But I was worried I would never be able see my children,” he told me.
“How can I make sure they don’t need to see me?”
So I decided to give it a try.
It’s a job I love.
I love being part of the team and I love the people who work here.
The boss said I was the most important person in the factory.
So now I’m the only female worker, he told my new manager.
I can work as a manager or as a secretary.
The first year was a great start, but after the first year, I started feeling like I was struggling with how I felt and how my role was defined.
“Women need to feel comfortable with themselves,” he explained.
I needed help to accept that I’m not an outsider.
I need help to be confident that I can do my best.
But, as time went on, I began to question the status quo and what my role in the organisation meant.
I’d seen so many women who had achieved the same success.
So, why didn’t I get to do the same?
Why can’t I just be an engineer and work in a big factory like mine?
The factory boss, now 52, has a new wife and has three children.
She has an MBA and has started her own company.
She told me she is worried about her children and how they will feel about being exposed to men.
She said she thought my role as a female factory worker had gone.
“My daughter has always been a bit worried because she feels like she’s the only woman in the world.”
It’s not just women who feel this way.
I don’t know how many times a day I’m told to put on a dress and do a certain job, I’ve been told to be quiet or be careful, to be respectful, I’m always told to take my time.
In some cases, the factory is the only place for women.
I’ve always had the privilege of working at a big firm, said my boss.
But he had never been asked about the issues women face in the workplace.
He doesn’t want to be the first woman to go through this, he says.
But what happens to the company if a woman wants to quit?
The man who introduced me to my new job is now in his 70s and lives in a small town in Victoria.
“When I started working in the plant, I knew I wanted to do a different job, to do more, to take charge of my life and