By Joan Runnheim Olson
What is a non-traditional career? A non-traditional career is defined as one where more than 75 percent of the workforce is of the opposite gender. Basically it’s a career that is either female-dominated or male-dominated. Some examples (http://www.iseek.org/careers/menandwomen.html) of non-traditional careers for women include: architect, carpenter, pilot, and mechanic. Non-traditional careers for men include: paralegal, nurse, dental hygienist, and elementary teacher.
For many years now, there has been a push by the government, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, to move more women into non-traditional careers. The main reason? Higher pay! These types of careers typically pay 20-30% higher wages (or more) than the traditional “pink-collar” jobs women most often pursue.
More recently, men are being targeted to consider a non-traditional career. The growing number of baby boomers reaching retirement age has led to a critical shortage of nurses. Men can help fill that gap.
With the benefits of non-traditional careers also comes its own set of challenges. As a project coordinator on a grant from the Dept. of Labor, I helped move more women into the auto service industry, as auto service technicians, aka mechanics, and service advisors (those that write up the repair order).
When meeting with service managers at auto dealerships, I faced resistance to the notion of hiring women in these positions. One service manager actually said to me, “We hired a woman once and she didn’t work out.” I was astonished. Apparently he felt that that one particular woman represented all women and forgot about the men who didn’t work out.
Women aren’t alone in facing obstacles in regard to non-traditional careers. Gender stereotypes about what is considered “men’s work” and “women’s work” is still ingrained pretty heavily in our society. The bottom line? I think it’s important for individuals to be aware of all of their career options.