Egyptian carpenter Fatima Sharif breaks stereotypes

Fatima Sharif breaks gender stereotypes and challenges society by working as a carpenter, considered a man's job in Cairo, despite all obstacles.


Cairo- Many career choices are still considered “men jobs”; however, women have been taking part in many sectors dominated by men to break gender stereotypes in the labor force.  Fatima Sharif, 30, is one of them. She breaks gender stereotypes and challenges society by working as a carpenter in Cairo despite all obstacles faced by her.

‘They claim we are not talented’

Noting that women face gender stereotypes due to social gender inequality, Fatima Sharif said, “They (men) claim that we cannot work in such sectors because we cannot use sharp tools and we are not talented. The biggest problem faced by women working as carpenters is to deal with men.”


‘I tried to learn carpentry for six months’

Despite all the obstacles and challenges faced by her, Fatima Sharif never gives up. “When I was pregnant, I kept making wooden products at home. My products were liked by many and then I signed my first contract to design and produce furniture. Since I did not have enough experience to produce furniture alone, I went to the carpentry workshop of my father-in-law. I asked the workers all the details and tried to learn everything about carpentry for six months. While looking after my baby, I looked at tools and tried to understand how workers make wooden products. At that time, I felt that I could be a carpenter.”

‘Most of workers were men’

“One of the biggest challenges I faced was convincing my father-in-law that working with him in the same workshop was not shameful,” said Fatima Sharif. She has been working as a carpenter in the Bab al Shariyah suburb of Cario for five years. The suburb is known for the carpentry workshops. “Most of the workers at the carpentry workshops were men and I could hear them talking about me. Every day I spent there, I was harassed. They were joking with my husband's father. For this reason, I decided to move my workshop to another street of Bab al Shariyah. It was a good decision because there are many women working in this area.”

‘Being a mother never prevents me from doing my job’

When Fatima Sharif began to work as a carpenter, she was afraid of discussing male carpenters but after becoming a professional carpenter, she started discussing male carpenters and demanding her rights. “Being a mother never prevents me from doing my job. I used to bring my daughter to the workshop but I would feel guilty when I thought about the harm that the materials in the workshop did to my daughter. For this reason, I leave her with my mother before I come to the workshop.”

Fatima Sharif’s husband began to work with her at the workshop after he became unemployed.

‘Women work in many sectors’

The successful story of Fatima Sharif encourages many women to take part in the labor force. “Men do not want to see women as their competitors. Today, women work in many sectors dominated by men. They work as plumbers, mechanics and carpenters. I have met many women breaking gender stereotypes and challenging society. I am one of them. I think I am a good model for women.”