• Leah Woodruff

Being a Young Female Social Worker

As a recent 2020 graduate, I have quickly been thrown in the real adult world. While it is wildly exciting, it is also challenging when facing work-life struggles. The field of social work is filled with the majority of women and some men, but as a young female entering the field- there are many obstacles I face on a daily basis and are constantly going on in my mind. The most obvious is, of course, is to break the glass ceiling, something that all women face in the workforce, but being a young female social worker comes with many more challenges around personal safety and being successful at your job.

Social services is a difficult field in general, and most people recognize that, but what often goes over people’s heads is the small things that may seem insignificant to the safety and success of young female professionals. A large section of social service jobs involve clients deemed unsafe depending on age and gender, which can make the social worker’s job more difficult. So, in regards to young female social workers, certain client groups can preset more risk than others. This is where my experience comes in. Now, I love my job, but there are so many small things I have to pay attention to within it. I work in an adolescent treatment center for teen boys, and as a female in her early 20’s it can create situations I might experience that my other coworkers may not.

I am closer in age to most of the clients compared to my coworkers, so the clients are more likely to develop “crushes” on me. This can seem harmless, but in this line of work, it is not unusual to face sexual assault or harassment from clients. These kids are in our facilities for a reason, and even though they might seem like they are getting along fine with you, it is very easy for them to flip a switch, even if they have shown a liking towards you. Other staff is also at risk of these aggressions from clients, but as a young female, it increases my likelihood.

I also have to think about the way I dress at my job. There are fine lines and weird standards we should meet, just because of our age and gender. I have been told to not wear tight clothing, or show too much skin when I am on shift because of how the boys might react. I have talked with many other female workers about these standards set for us and how it can be classified as sexism because it is sexualizing us just because we are young females working with these boys. And while that is what is happening, there are some situations where our safety overrules these unfair standards. That is the hard part of being a woman in this workforce, facing a constant double standard.

Now, I know ALL social workers face challenges every day, it's a hard job, but with young female professionals, there is another layer of oppression that can be felt and seen.

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