Commentary: Westport's helpful hardware girls

By Jessica George
Posted 11/21/23

“I think I’m going to need one of the guys to help me with this.”

“Wow, I’ve never seen a girl fill propane before.” It’s 2023, so one would be safe to …

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Commentary: Westport's helpful hardware girls


“I think I’m going to need one of the guys to help me with this.”

“Wow, I’ve never seen a girl fill propane before.”
It’s 2023, so one would be safe to assume we are at a point in society where we know

that anyone regardless of gender is capable of doing a job.
But over at Westport Ace Hardware, it seems that customers are still baffled by the

number of women working in what has long been thought of as “a man’s job.” But why is this? Haven’t we shattered the ideas of gender roles?

Women make up half of the 15-person staff at Westport Ace. But this is not the case everywhere. According to Zippia, a job website that tracks workplace trends, about 20 percent of all hardware store associates in the United States are women.

“As much as we would like to be progressive with gender roles in 2023 some people are just not with the times,” said inventory control supervisor Nina Botelho.

“Much of our demographic is older men who have been very set in their ways,” said Cassidy Leary, paint manager.

Working any retail job has challenges like the entitled customers and seasonal rushes. But being a woman in a hardware store comes with its own unique set.

“I would say some of the daily challenges of being a woman in hardware is being underestimated about everything,” said associate Morgan Aguiar.

Botelho agreed and said, “Usually I’m met with a surprised reaction from customers when I am able to help solve their issues.”

This theme of women being underestimated in the hardware spaces extends to female customers as well. In 2023 Lombardo Homes, a mid-western home construction contractor conducted a nationwide survey of American women’s DIY home improvement habits and trends. The “40 percent of women feel they are treated differently than men by employees” at hardware stores.

“I have an overwhelming number of people who will speak to me when I'm standing with one of our male coworkers,” said Leary. “More often than not, I'll be the one to ask if they need any help [but] they look directly past me to speak around me or over me.”

As in any male-dominated, this behavior creates a certain pressure amongst women to prove their capabilities.

“I would definitely say that there's a pressure to show that I know what I'm doing,” said Aguiar, “I mean, nobody looks at a 19-year-old girl and says she knows a lot about hardware.”

“I definitely need to be on my A game all the time to keep customers feeling confident in my abilities,” Said Botelho, “I need to have the answers to any questions I’m asked, and I sometimes feel that I look stupid if I need at ask a coworker for help with a customer issue.

These pressures extend beyond customers to even coworkers.

“Any of the new staff that we hire, I feel like I have to prove myself to be knowledgeable and someone that they can look to,” said Leary.

Luckily the women of Westport Ace Hardware know they have the support of those around them.

“I feel like we definitely have the drive to want to help each other,” said Aguiar.

“I very rarely feel like any of my coworkers will overlook me to ask one of the guys for help. I feel like an equal,” said Leary.

Editor’s note: Jessica, a Westport resident, is a sophomore at UMass Dartmouth, where she’s majoring in English, with an emphasis on professional and creative writing.

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