Breaking Gender Barriers: 4 Women Rocking “Male” Jobs Breaking Gender Barriers: 4 Women Rocking “Male” Jobs In the early 1960s, a full 40 years after the 19th amendment was ratified, the labor force started seeing some major changes in terms of female employee numbers. In fact, from 1960 to 1970, “the influx of married women workers accounted for almost half of the increase in the total labor force, and working wives were staying on their jobs longer before starting families,” reports the Women’s International Center. This increase happened despite discrimination against women, who employers (wrongly) assumed would quickly peace out after getting hired just because they were hitched. Fast forward half a century and now women – married and single – account for just over 50% of the work force. Not only that, but women are pushing boundaries by occupying positions in male-dominated fields, and today we’re featuring four of them. Our goal is to show that women can do anything they want (not that we all didn’t already know that), bring awareness to lingering gender stereotypes, and to motivate and inspire. Valerie Johnson, Forestry Wildlife Specialist Before Valerie Johnson became a forestry wildlife specialist with the Ruffed Grouse Society and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, she served as a wildland firefighter and forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She’s been in the field for 10 years, and “plans on dying before retiring” from her job. What Does a “Day in the Life” Look Like for You? “Once I get to work, I get to do the boring mundane task of checking and answering emails and phone calls. Normally, I have a visit with a landowner scheduled, and at that time I get to walk a wooded property with a landowner and decide ways to manage their property for wildlife habitat, including grouse, deer, and woodcock.” What Kind of Gender Stereotypes and Difficulties Do You Face? “Well, most people think I’m just out of college, which I’m not. And the rest want to know if I am married, which I am not. Normally, I change the subject to hunting, and that helps. I don’t really get frustrated about anything, honestly, but sometimes it does make the situation a little uncomfortable considering I’m normally alone in the woods with them. I honestly just think it is because I’m a girl.” Despite the Hardship, in What Ways is Your Job Fulfilling? “I absolutely adore working with people who want to manage their property for future generations. It is exciting to actually see your work culminate into something that you get to drive by on a regular basis. Honestly, people who have enthusiasm for managing their property are absolutely contagious.” Aidan Rogers, Hospice Chaplain Indiana-based Aidan Rogers is currently a grad student pursuing her Master of Divinity, which puts her “in classes as usually the only female pursuing pastoral work among 20 to 30 males.” She’s discovered that the real world is an extension of the classroom, as well, in her work as a hospice chaplain. Rogers plans to remain in ministry for many years to come, and upon graduation will pursue “aggressive chaplaincies” that involve work at prisons, as a first responder, and at shelters and rehabs. What Does a “Day in the Life” Look Like for You? “Atypical day for me when I am chaplaining, regardless of context, consists of responding to codes and crises primarily. Without my full credentials, I can only work right now in an on-call capacity, and this leaves me as the one who shows up in case of death, severe trauma, stillbirths, and domestic situations. This means I am doing only the ‘hard stuff.’ Since I am also currently working with hospice patients, I do a lot of family intervention, as well.” What Kind of Gender Stereotypes and Difficulties Do You Face? “Most of the time when I arrive, people keep looking for the chaplain to show up. I’m mistaken for a nurse, or I’m mistaken for a CNA, or I’m mistaken for a social worker. Hospice families expect me to be some kind of a counselor for them and not the ‘official’ spiritual care representative. In terms of the more aggressive ministries that I engage in, there tend to be some concerns about how I can handle myself – if I can at all. I’m petite and athletic, so I look pretty thin. People have commented that I don’t look like I can stand my ground at all, and some of these places are no places at all for ‘a girl like you.’ But once they get to know me, my toughness speaks for itself. Even though I bear the tender heart of a woman, I am not so sensitive as to be blown by this world. Another thing I might say about women in chaplaincy, or in ministry in general, is that it’s still controversial. I still run up against conservative mindsets that will not accept the authority of a female chaplain.” Despite the Hardship, in What Ways is Your Job Fulfilling? “This line of work is fulfilling for me because it is an echo out of my own story. I have known some hard, dark, and scary places in my life, and I have known both the fear and the insecurity that comes with that. My entire story is a testimony to the persons who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, who came to stand alongside me when I could hardly stand at all. I am a direct outworking of God’s amazing grace, and I have this uncanny ability to see into the depths of someone else’s heart and know the questions they are too afraid to ask, usually because I have had many of them myself. Being able to give back some of the things that have held me up over the years is a tremendous blessing and, to be honest, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.” Jacyln Trop, Automotive Journalist Fast cars and world travel sounds like a dream world for most, but it’s the reality for Jacyln Trop, an automotive journalist who gets to test drive some of the most elite cars on the market. She’s been reporting on cars for nearly a decade, and her work has appeared in The Detroit News, The New York Times, and numerous magazines. What Does a “Day in the Life” Look Like for You? “A typical day… driving in a Lamborghini in Spain, a McLaren in New Zealand, and Mercedes in Slovenia, a Toyota in Japan. The industry is so wide-reaching that I get to cover everything from NASCAR to CES. This week alone I went to the reveal of a new Range Rover at the Design Museum in London, a test drive for the Mercedes E-Class coupe in Barcelona, the Geneva Auto Show, and finally, South by Southwest in Austin. I feel extremely fortunate.” What kinds of gender stereotypes or difficulties do you face? “Being mistaken for a cocktail waitress, event coordinator, or someone’s daughter at industry events. It’s awkward when someone asks me to take their drink order. I think the older generation just doesn’t expect that I’m there to do the same job that they are.” What about your job is so fulfilling for you? “Growing up, I always wanted to travel freely and drive a new car every week. I had no idea that my dream lifestyle existed as an actual career.” Kristen Storms, Funeral Director In 2010, Kirsten Storms pursued her mortuary science degree and found herself in a classroom that was actually full of more female students than males students. However, she says, many of those women “didn’t make it,” and it was “still very known that females have a lot of work to show themselves adequate for the job of a funeral director.” Since then, there are more and more women pursuing and entering the field, but it’s still largely regarded as a male career. What Does a “Day in the Life” Look Like for You? “We arrive at work and complete anything that may need to be done, such as prayer cards for the upcoming wake, guest book for the wake, cosmetizing the deceased, dressing and casketing, and things of that nature. If a new call comes in – the term ‘call’ means deceased – we pretty much stop anything we are doing to assist the family at need. I make the arrangements with the family and also embalm the body.” What Kind of Gender Stereotypes and Difficulties Do You Face? “Everyone is shocked to hear that I do it all. The main stereotype I face is the fact that not only am I a female, but I am a young female in the business. Most families are very accepting of me as their funeral director, however there have been a few times when they hesitate to open up to me, and I do feel as if that because when you think of a funeral director you think of an older male. Also, when I arrive at a house removal and/or an accident scene that have police, they all seem to step into help, but when one of our male directors go to the same situation, they do not receive any help from the police.” Despite the Hardship, in What Ways is Your Job Fulfilling? “When I began college after high school, I was a nursing major and I absolutely hated every aspect of school. My mother suggested that I try out Mortuary Science and I ended up loving it. She made a good point when she said that a funeral director is able to help families at the hardest time in their lives – when they lose a loved one. I always wanted to help people, and I am 100% able to do that. I absolutely love everything about my job and honestly could not see myself doing anything else. They say if you make it to five years in this business, you are 75% going to stick with it. Once you hit 10 years, the percent goes to around 100%. It is a demanding job, so I do understand why so many people cannot handle it.” Wendy Rose Gould Wendy Rose Gould is a reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including Refinery29, InStyle, xoVain, Headspace, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can learn more about her at WendyGould.com.