The Transportation Committee doesn’t often take testimony from 11-year-olds, but that didn’t stop West Hartford resident Isabella Glynn from telling lawmakers Wednesday she thought “men at work” construction signs sent the wrong message about gender expectations.
“I’m an 11-year-old girl and I know that men would not like it if the work signs said ‘women at work,’” she said, getting a laugh out of those in attendance at the transportation public hearing.
Glynn was testifying along with Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, in support of legislation that would require the use of gender-neutral work signs by the Transportation Department.
She said she got the idea one day as she was riding in the car with her father and saw a “men at work” sign at a construction site.
“If there is a woman working there, she will not get any credit. I think this is wrong and unfair,” she said.
Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said the DOT’s constructions signs already are gender neutral.
“All of our signs are very, very neutral. They just say ‘work zone,’” Redeker said.
In light of the Transportation Department’s compliance, Glynn recommended changing the language of the bill to account for city signs as well. She also came with a plan to keep her proposal cost neutral.
“If that is too expensive maybe the bill could say that all new signs the city buys are gender neutral. Please help make this world a fairer place,” she said.
Sen. Toni Boucher, the committee’s ranking Republican, was impressed with Glynn’s low-cost proposal.
“You learned a very valuable lesson you can take with you for the rest of your life,” she said. “I learned it early on in some very male-dominated businesses and that is when you make a proposal, always make it cost neutral if you want to assure its success.”
Though he couldn’t say how many municipalities were still using “men at work” signs, Redeker said he was impressed by Glynn’s spirit. He said a lot of the signs the DOT uses focus on students.
“Some of the winners have been ‘My mom and dad work here. Please drive carefully.’ So I think she’s touched a good string there and we want to keep it going,” he said.
After Glynn’s testimony, Transportation Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, asked who the girl’s state representative was, before coming to the conclusion it was Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford.
“You’ve got some problems Rep. Verrengia, you’ve got some problems,” Guerrera joked, before later acknowledging it would be a few years before Glynn could run for office.
When lawmakers were done questioning her on the bill, Glynn even got her own TV news interview outside the hearing room.