Non-Traditional Fields for Women: Against the Odds
BY SHARON GOLDBERG
At the School of Natural Resources in Lindsay, Ontario, the emphasis is on practical, natural resources-oriented education in such diverse programs as Resources Drilling, Geological Techniques, Fish and Wildlife Technology and Natural Resources Law Enforcement. For many years, very few female students applied or were accepted for admission to the programs and, currently, approximately 20% of the student body is made up of women.
As a faculty member of the School of Natural Resources, which is a division of Sir Sanford Fleming College, I became interested in the motivation of women to seek post-secondary education in non-traditional occupations. In the 1987-88 school year, I developed and administered a survey dealing with the attitudes of female adult students to studying in non-traditional areas.
Of the twenty-three women who participated in the survey, ten were in their first year, eight were second-year students and five were third-year students. Their ages ranged from nineteen to fifty-one. They were enrolled in programs including Cartography, Farm Business, Fish & Wildlife, Forest Recreation, Forestry, Heavy Equipment, Law Enforcement, Environment Pest Control Management, and Water and Terrain Geology.
The educational background of the women ranged from high school completion, to some college, to college completion, to some undergraduate work at university, to university completion in an undergraduate program. Their employment background covered all spheres: traditional (waitress, sales clerk, office clerk), non-traditional (farm labour, forestry, tree planting), a combination of traditional and non-traditional experience, and one woman who had never had paid employment prior to studying at the School of Natural Resources and who is also an international student from Zimbabwe.
Parents' educational and employment backgrounds were also varied. Some of their parents did not complete high school, some did, some a combination of high school and college education, and some had completed university. In addition, there was a split between those whose mothers worked outside the home, and those whose mothers did not. Surprisingly (to me), not one of the respondents had a mother who had paid employment in a non-traditional area.