State of the Union: Career Pathways for Working Families

I listened carefully to President Obama’s State of the Union Address last month and was pleased to hear him say, “Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That’s why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.”

IWITTS’ work focuses on ensuring that working women are part of the science and technology landscape with an emphasis on technician-level careers. Sometimes we are asked, “Why focus on careers at the technician level? Every girl and woman should have the opportunity to go to four-year colleges.”

True, however, if we only introduce women and girls to engineering and science careers that require a bachelor’s degree or graduate education, we will have missed the opportunity to impact the majority of women and girls who come from working families and who attend community colleges, not four-year universities.

IWITTS strives to bridge the gender gap in technology for these women and girls in particular because 1) they have made the fewest inroads in the science and technology workforce and 2) they are among those most in need of better jobs.

Women and girls of working families deserve entrée to the jobs of the future – green jobs, biotechnology, medical information technology and construction – and I am so glad that President Obama has focused attention on our community colleges and the career pathways they provide to all students.

What do you think? Should we focus primarily on professional occupations for women and girls in Science, Engineering, Math & Technology (STEM) or should we focus in all areas including at the technician level?

WomenTech PosterDid you know? Role Models are a top way to inspire women to choose careers in traditionally-male fields.

Our series of 7 posters feature real women working in trades & tech. Use them in classrooms, counseling offices and hallways to make women think twice about their career options.

9 Responses to “State of the Union: Career Pathways for Working Families”

  1. JennaL  on February 26th, 2010

    I feel as though no woman should be limited to anything. Especially her career choice. Although I am on the younger side and am in my second semester of graduate school, I have never thought to myself, well I really can’t do that because I’m a woman. Regardless of a woman’s location, her family background, or her education and what kind of education she wants to achieve, every woman has the right to decide what they want. Although not everyone sees it this way, I’m glad it’s being brought to attention. I hope it continues!

  2. Jennifer Simpson  on February 22nd, 2010

    Careers as “technician” or working in the trades is a viable and respectable route for many many people– women especially. There are a lot of misconceptions about trade jobs, for example. You don’t need brute strength… think TIG welders muscle their way through a job? and those jobs, especially those at the higher levels require education just not necessarily four-year degrees. Not everyone is cut out for college (of the four-year and beyond). And we need to be okay with that. Some of the smartest, most educated, successful people I know did not go to college….

  3. Daniny  on February 19th, 2010

    I agree with the fact that women and people of working families should not be limited to their career choice. I think if they have a love and ambition for it they should be abole to go for it. I think that any woman or girl should not just be limited to what they want to do because they are a female. Also, think we should focus on all areas for women and girls as long as its something they have a drive for. Whether it is just a trade or going to a four year college, i think women of all backgrounds of life should have the opporunity to practive in whatever area they want whether its male dominated or not.

  4. jewelbythebay  on February 9th, 2010

    We should all be able to work where our passion is without regard
    to gender. I’ve had friends who worked in traditional blue collar
    trades in order to save money for four year university and white
    collar professions. Many women do not succeed in trade union
    apprenticeships because of the harassment of co-workers and lack of
    positive reinforcement from leadership. When these change, we will
    see more young women choose a path through the trades.

    Meanwhile, follow your own passion and pack your own parachute!

  5. Ray Chandos  on February 9th, 2010

    I agree with your focus on technician careers. They do not necessarily exclude professional careers later on, and in fact can provide a more accessible ladder than struggling through a 4-year university degree program all at one time. Students who complete a two-year program and then transfer to university have a higher success rate there than students entering university direct

  6. Pati Sievert  on February 9th, 2010

    I agree. There are plenty of well paying tech jobs that do not require a 4 year degree. I personally think we do students a disservice when we leave these jobs out of the discussion of well paying careers. For a student with limited means and no close role models a 2 year (or less) tech program at community college prices can seem much more accessible than a four year program. Better to tackle what seems more attainable than not to try at all. Some will find their way to a 4 year program after getting to a place where they can support themselves, but who is to say that is the “better” outcome? My husband, with an electronics tech education working for a utility, earns nearly twice what I do with a MS in physics working in education.

  7. Ruth G  on February 9th, 2010

    That was one of my favorite points in President Obama’s State of the Union too. Community colleges are so important, especially when money is tight. The one I graduated from gave me a much better education than either of the two universities I attended (hour for hour and especially dollar for dollar). In my opinion, there isn’t a better place to put national education dollars… great choice!

    And thanks for all you do… keep up the excellent and important work!

  8. Sally Daniel  on February 9th, 2010

    If you look at the strides the Women’s Movement of the 60s and 70s made in employment, you see that many of the “professional jobs” that were once male dominated are no longer considered “non-traditional” for women. The law, medicine and accounting have all seen huge increases in women’s participation. However, what were then considered “the trades” were overlooked. This is why these occupations are still overwhelmingly male. I think that now is the time for organizations and schools to join forces to open these career paths to women. A technician–be it in auto repair or heating and air conditioning- makes a salary that is self-sustainable…which is not something many “pink-collar careers” can say. The difference in salaries in my geographic area is remarkable. An early childhood educator (day care provider) earns an average of about $17,000 per year while a welder earns an average of about $40,000. You won’t get rich with this sort of salary, but it will not consign you to poverty.
    Please, please, let’s pay attention to the needs of ALL women–not just he ones at the “top.”

  9. Chuck Russell  on February 9th, 2010

    Women are just as varied as men – different aptitudes, different backgrounds, different experiences, different places in life. We should try to focus on all areas to attract women from all backgrounds, experiences and walks of life. And just like the men, some of those who initially seek 2-year schools will find their way into the four+ year schools.

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