Breaking gender stereotypesPublished 10:55pm Thursday, February 28, 2013
Sophomores and juniors from Suffolk’s public high schools benefited from insight into non-traditional career options Thursday.
During a Career and Technical Education Advisory Council-sponsored Suffolk Public Schools event at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn, students engaged face-to-face with representatives from businesses and groups whose workforces commonly comprise less than 25 percent of one gender or the other.
Charter, Cotton Plains Farm, Dominion Power, H&R Block, Johnson and Wales University, McEntire Design, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Apprentice School, Paul D. Camp Community College, Riverside School of Health Careers and Science Application International Corp. were among those represented.
“This is our fourth year, and we do have an increase in participation from business and industry,” CTE Coordinator Gail Bess said, adding that finding folks from non-traditional roles to engage with students at events can be challenging.
Examples of non-traditional workers include male nurses and hair stylists and female welders and farmers.
One female farmer at the event, Shelley Barlow of Chuckatuck’s Cotton Plain Farms, said her main message for students is that her industry has plenty to offer both genders.
“You’re not just limited to being a farmer,” she said. “There are so many other industries that support what we do.”
It’s Barlow’s view that “girls should be able to do whatever they want to do.” She advised boys and girls to pursue the careers of their choosing, regardless of any gender stereotypes. “Because you are going to be doing it every day,” she said.
Representing the Virginia Ship Repair Foundation were David Spinazollo, president of Metropolitan Solutions, a laboratory and training contractor to the ship repair and building industry, and Alan Walker of BAE Systems.
Walker said women comprise about 15 percent of the workforce at BAE, a contractor and consultant across various industries, including defense, aerospace and intelligence.
“A lot of women actually make better mechanics than men,” Walker said. “They have better hand-eye coordination and attention to detail.”
Ninochaka Harris, who serves on the CTE advisory council, said the event broke down perceptions of gender barriers. For instance, he said, “It’s to let young women know that, yes, there are young women out there that are engineers.”
Student Leon Lynch said he is aiming to become an anesthesiologist. “It’s just a lot of school — that’s why a bunch of guys don’t want to do it,” he said.