By Joan Runnheim Olson
Yesterday I received a call from a community college out east. They may want to hire me to provide a motivational presentation to their undecided female students sharing the benefits of nontraditional careers, i.e., male-dominated. What a great idea! Many female students enter college undecided about what major to pursue, and ultimately, what career path to choose. These students range from 18-year-olds to those in their 40's and 50's that have been downsized due to the recession. What can be done to help these students in their career-decision making process? And, how can counselors and educators raise student's awareness of their career options, not just those based on gender?
Gender Stereotypes Limit Career Options
Oftentimes female students focus only on those career paths that are traditional for their gender. A male-dominated career doesn't even hit their radar screen. As I have shared in the past, this is typically a result of socialization and gender stereotypes. At home, girls grow up expected to carry out chores that are typical for their gender, e.g., washing the dishes and cleaning house. They often don't learn how to build or repair things. This spills over into school where females are often encouraged to enroll in classes and programs that are traditional for their gender.
So, What's the Big Deal?
Some women may find a nontraditional career more satisfying than a traditional one. Besides career satisfaction, many nontraditional careers for women pay 20-30% higher wages than the traditional "pink collar" jobs they pursue. And some offer career ladders, e.g., apprenticeship programs where you earn while you learn. As your skills increase, your pay increases.
Steps for a Turnaround
One step to help turn this around is to encourage counselors and advisors to make female students aware of both traditional and nontraditional career options. And, when educators notice a female student is good in math, science, or technology, encourage them to talk to the student about the different career opportunities that are available for someone with those skills.