While women make up 46 percent of the U.S. workforce, they account for only 6 percent of the jobs in production, transportation and material moving occupations and 1 percent in natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Move over, guys. Looking for more job security and higher pay, or just following their natural talents, more women are entering male-dominated occupations.
Shontica Wallace just graduated with a diploma in automotive collision repair from Atlanta Technical College. Don’t let the pink and purple coveralls fool you — she was tops in her class.
“I was the only girl in a family that painted cars for a living,” said Wallace. “I always wanted to do it, too, but I had to grow older and more mature before I realized that I could still be a feminine woman and paint cars.”
Wallace worked as a dental receptionist before enrolling in the auto repair program. “There was only one other woman in the class. I was nervous at first, but once I put on coveralls and started doing the work, everyone treated me just like one of the guys,” she said. “Being a woman doesn’t have to stop you from doing a man’s job if you want to do it and are willing to work hard.”
Wallace plans to open a shop with her father and brother, but she wants to complete her associate degree in marketing from Atlanta Tech first. “I want to know the ins and outs of running a business before we start,” she said.
Rachel Baisden Young jokes that she was always "wired" to be an electrician. She took apart her first radio at 9; and installed light fixtures and junction boxes in her apartments in her 20s.
She loved wiring things but pursued a career in real estate from 1992 to 2005, thinking it would be a stable living. “I became a broker and made the million-dollar club, but I was more interested in repairing properties than straight selling,” she said.
When the market changed, she became a flight attendant. She flies for AirTran on weekends and goes to school during the week.
“That turned out to be a volatile industry, as well, with the recession and fuel prices soaring, so with encouragement from my daughter, I finally decided I should just go ahead and do what I love to do,” said Young.
She graduated in May from Atlanta Technical College’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance Program. “I was the only woman, but my teachers didn’t grant me any concessions. They were probably a bit tougher, knowing that I’d face challenges in the workplace,” she said.
Her colleagues soon discovered that she didn’t mind getting sweaty and dirty, could turn a deaf ear to construction language, was good at math and already had a hands-on knowledge of electricity. Women are detail-oriented and have the patience to do the job and make it look good, she said.
“If you’re great at your craft, all that other stuff about race or gender just goes out the window," Young said.
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