Edmonton boy, 12, convinces company to change 'sexist' sign

When Callum La Roi saw a construction sign he thought was sexist, he knew he had to say something.

Callum La Roi wasn’t impressed when he saw a sign that read ‘Men Working Overhead’

A B.C. company is make changes after 12-year-old Callum La Roi told them their signs were sexist. (Everett La Roi)

When Callum La Roi saw a construction sign he thought was sexist, he knew he had to say something.

The 12-year-old Edmonton boy was on a trip to B.C.'s Quadra Island in June when his family stopped at a school playground.

There were safety signs in place because the school's roof was being replaced. When Callum ​saw a sign that said "Men Working Overhead," he wasn't impressed.

The sign in question. (Nelson Roofing & Sheet Metal Ltd)

"It's inappropriate to say 'Men Working Overhead,' because there could be women working overhead," he said. "I thought that was very sexist."

So he asked his mother if he could phone the Nelson Roofing and Sheet Metal company.

He called the number printed on a company truck parked at the school, not expecting to hear back.

But a couple of weeks later, Nelson Roofing returned the call.

"I was very surprised," Callum said. "It was exciting, because you know I didn't think they would reply at all."

The news the Vancouver Island-based company had to share with him was even more exciting: Callum's message prompted them to change their signs.

'Caution: Working Overhead'

Michael Danielson, the company's safety manager, said he made the signs about eight years ago, not realizing they could be perceived as sexist.

Callum 's voicemail made him think differently.

"Some people could be offended by it, for sure," Danielson said, noting the company has female employees. "And we definitely want to be on the leading curve of making sure that we're not offending anybody out there."

The company has altered about 75 per cent of their signs, covering up the word "men" with the word "caution." The signs now read "Caution: Working Overhead." Danielson said all future signs will have similar wording.

An updated sign. (Nelson Roofing & Sheet Metal Ltd)

Between 60 and 80 signs need to be changed.

"It's definitely number one on the agenda, to get out to the job sites and take care of that," Danielson said.

"We have to be really aware of what we put on signage, and I'd like to thank him for bringing that to our attention," he said.

Callum ​hopes his actions will inspire similar changes in the future.

"I think it will make a difference," he said. "If more people see those things and then they phone about another company, then that company will change them too, hopefully."

Callum La Roi was surprised to get a call back from the company, but is happy he did. (Everett La Roi)

About the Author

Anna McMillan


Anna McMillan is a reporter at CBC Edmonton. You can reach her at anna.mcmillan@cbc.ca