Shade Wilmot from Queensland struggled to find work when she moved to Sydney five years ago because of her tattoos.
Shade Wilmot from Queensland struggled to find work when she moved to Sydney five years ago because of her tattoos.

Woman told to cover up so she doesn't 'offend'

Shade Wilmot isn't one to really care what people think.

But after constantly copping stares and having people telling her to cover up - it was hard to turn a blind eye.

It took the 31-year-old four months to land a job in Sydney because of her appearance.

That's because the Queensland woman has two full sleeve tattoos, a fact she says hindered her ability to get a job.

"I guess it's always a bit of a kick to the ego when you're constantly getting knocked back knowing very well you have the skills to do the job they're advertising," Ms Wilmot told news.com.au

Shade Wilmot, 31, struggled to find work in Sydney for four months because of her two full sleeve tattoos.
Shade Wilmot, 31, struggled to find work in Sydney for four months because of her two full sleeve tattoos.

After the frustration of not being able to find work in her field of construction, she resorted to a recruiter who told her it would be best to "cover up".

"It can be hurtful but at the same time it's a personal choice," Ms Wilmot said. "I obviously decided to get tattoos for myself and not everybody will understand it, nor why I had chose to get sleeves."

She took the advice of her recruiter and landed a job as a project manager with her current employer - and while she said they were fully supportive of who she is, she still copped nasty comments from clients about her tattoos.

"The company I work for are very laid back and easy going and have never specifically asked me to cover, but if we go to a client meeting, especially a new client I haven't met before, I'll take it upon myself to cover up because you never know how someone is going to react," Ms Wilmot said.

She said she did this to avoid awkward situations which she says happens often.

"I find people often talk or treat me differently. Like the old saying goes, 'don't judge a book by its cover', but they do," Ms Wilmot said.

She was told she needs to cover up to increase her chances of getting work.
She was told she needs to cover up to increase her chances of getting work.

"Recently some of my colleagues and I were at a corporate event and someone who I have worked with for several years but had never met, was also there."

"He said women shouldn't have tattoos and if they do it should be covered up. He also described it as 'disgusting'."

She said judgment mainly comes from men in the workplace, which was a surprise.

"I would have expected it to be more from older woman who wouldn't necessarily understand why I chose to do that, and especially being in a male dominated industry, it shocked me that the majority of people who have a problem with my sleeves are men."

Ms Wilmot said that some of the other comments she gets are: "Why would you do that?", "What would make you want to do that to yourself?" and, "What do you parents think?"

She said she simply explained to them that how she looked didn't affect how she did her job or the skills she possessed to carry out her work.

She is now a project manager for a construction company in Sydney and while her employer doesn’t have a problem with her tats, she still cops flak from male clients.
She is now a project manager for a construction company in Sydney and while her employer doesn’t have a problem with her tats, she still cops flak from male clients.

Ms Wilmot said she was never faced with any criticism during her previous role in Queensland as she got her tattoos while working for her former employer.

"Some of my biggest clients who I have worked with for many years in this job have seen me in singlets and dresses and are fully aware of my tattoos and have never once made a comment or had an issue - I attend events often in Sydney's CBD and people know I have them," Ms Wilmot said.

"But I still think we as a society have a long way to go to accept people of difference, no matter what it is."

HOW EMPLOYEES' QUIRKS CAN HELP BUSINESSES SUCCEED

One of Australia's most senior organisational psychologists and chief executive at CommuniCorp, Adrianna Loveday said that embracing the individuality, quirks and originality of workers (like tattoos) could actually be the key to ultimate organisational success.

"We have come to repress our shadow selves - that quirky collection of traits that are not as easily tolerated in a workplace," Ms Loveday told news.com.au

"These idiosyncrasies not only make us memorable, but also provide the complexity to our character, the authenticity to our relationships."

 

The senior professional never expected such a shocking reaction from men in her industry who have told her to ‘cover up’ and that she looks ‘disgusting’.
The senior professional never expected such a shocking reaction from men in her industry who have told her to ‘cover up’ and that she looks ‘disgusting’.

Ms Loveday, whose client portfolio includes Qantas, IBM, NAB and ANZ, said that while Australia had progressed from a legal standpoint - adopting procedures of a physically safe and healthy workplace - she still finds there to be "in-group" and "out-group" behaviour.

"This is when people are hired, or not hired because they share a commonality or are dissimilar to the person recruiting or the employer," Ms Loveday said.

"I see it a lot, particularly in the selection process for example, 'They have tattoos so I am going to hire them' or 'They don't, so I am not going to hire them'."

She said it is critical that managers nurture all talent of their people.

"The good, the wild and the quirky. This means celebrating the unique contribution that each individual provides, their unique way of looking at the world and approach to their work.

"It also means being mindful of our human tendency to gravitate towards those most similar to us, thus creating a less equitable working environment."

 

The Queensland local never had an issue with her previous employer as she got her tattoos while in the role.
The Queensland local never had an issue with her previous employer as she got her tattoos while in the role.

Ms Loveday said many studies have found that environments involving complex decisions and creativity, more diverse teams outperform less diverse ones.

"Too much similarity can lead to teams that are overconfident, ignore vital information and make poor, even unethical decisions," she said.

AUSTRALIA IS EXPERIENCING GROWTH IN PEOPLE GETTING INKED

According to market research company McCrindle, one in five Aussies have a tattoo.

In its report titled Tattoos in Australia, people get tattoos when they are younger, but more than 36 per cent of people were recorded as getting their first tattoo aged 26 or older, with 20 per cent getting inked in their 30s or older.

It also revealed that one in four Aussie women have a tattoo.

Of the Australians who have tattoos, almost half (48 per cent) only have one tattoo, 30 per cent have two to three tattoos, and a further 15 per cent have between four and nine.

"In a generation, tattoos have been transformed from a sign of rebellion and nonconformity, to symbols of personal meaning and life-change," Mark McCrindle said in the report.

She hopes to see a change in workplaces with people being more accepting of others quirks and differences.
She hopes to see a change in workplaces with people being more accepting of others quirks and differences.

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