Indiana girls praised after calling attention to outdated, gender-specific construction signs

CARMEL, Ind. — A couple of young sisters in Indiana have become champions of equality after bringing outdated, gender-specific “Men Working” signs to city leaders’ attention.

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Blair Babione, 11, and Brienne Babione, 9, drove past construction zones on their school bus and noticed the signs. After doing some research, they learned that cities, states and the federal government stopped using the gender-specific signage decades ago, the Indianapolis Star reported.

“Why is this sign here? Why does it say, ‘Men working’ when we’ve seen plenty of women doing construction?’,” the girls wrote in a letter to Carmel City Council President Sue Finkham.

Their letter quickly sparked change.

Finkham introduced a resolution outlining the use of gender-neutral signs like a shovel, flag or work description, which was unanimously passed.

“‘Men Working” or ‘Men At Work’ signage communicates the false and unacceptable message that women cannot or should not work in the construction trades or other related fields,” the resolution reads. “Having been alerted to gender bias in this community by the thoughtful letters of two of the City’s youngest residents, Blair Babione and Brienne Babione, the Common Council chooses to take official action to promote equality and inclusivity.”

The signs the girls saw were used by a city contractor in a neighborhood. The signs are not used by the city. Carmel, like other municipalities, use flags or signs that describe the activity like “Utility Work Ahead,” “Mowing Ahead,” or “Survey Crew.”

At the council meeting, the Babiones were surrounded by female firefighters, police officers and other city workers. Finkham presented the sisters with the “Men Working” sign as a memento.

Finkham said she was impressed with the two youthful civic activists.

“It is about empowering young people,” she said. “Instead of going on social media, they wrote a letter to their city council. I’ve never seen that in 10 years on the council.”

Their mother was especially proud, and hoped their actions help inspire others.

“We hope, by us calling attention to this matter, that we inspire others to know that their voices, big or small, can make an impact by getting involved in civic duty; learning how government and advocacy works; and doing research on a cause you are called to before taking action,” Babione told the Star.