By Joan Runnheim Olson
In the 2012 Olympics, 269 American women and 261 men are competing in London. This is the first time more women than men are competing. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. In 1972, fewer than 30,000 females participated in sports and recreational programs at NCAA member institutions nationwide. Today that number has increased six-fold. At the high school level, participation by girls in athletics has increased ten-fold. Title IX was passed by Congress in an effort to help women achieve a better economic future through education, and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
While we do have more female doctors, lawyers, and athletes, women still remain clustered in educational programs that prepare them for "pink collar" careers, i.e., low-wage careers in the helping or service fields. Nontraditional careers for women typically pay higher wages, oftentimes 20 to 30 percent or more than the traditional female careers. Why then don't more women consider a nontraditional career? One reason females don't consider a nontraditional career is because of the lack of female role models. Females need to see women who look like themselves doing work in a male-dominated field. Below are strategies secondary and post-secondary educators, counselors, career center staff, and recruiters can use to increase enrollment in classes/programs that prepare females for nontraditional careers:
1) Invite females who work in nontraditional careers to speak at high school enrollment or at a career open house. Reach out to women who work as firefighters, welders, carpenters, architects, pilots, etc. Ask them to share what they like about their careers and what challenges they face.
2) Include photos of females working in nontraditional careers in promotional materials, e.g., brochures, flyers, banners, school newspaper articles.
3) Bring students to a local business that employs women in a nontraditional career so they can see first-hand women performing that type of work.
The above strategies are designed to help females become aware of all of their career options, not just the ones typically held by women. If you don't work in an educational institution, perhaps you are a parent or an aunt or uncle? Encourage your child or niece to explore a nontraditional career.