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With Woman’s History Month half way through, I thought it was the time I shared my story in hopes of empowering other women to reach their goals and pursue their dreams no matter what they may be!
Do you remember Rosie The Riveter?
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“American women entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers during World War II, as widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. “Rosie the Riveter,” star of a government campaign aimed at recruiting female workers for the munitions industry, became perhaps the most iconic image of working women during the war.” — history.com
Strength Has No Gender™
It is that iconic story and the famous image of Rosie that reminds me that Strength Has No Gender™. So many male-dominated industries (Transportation, STEM, Law Enforcement, Sanitation, etc.) are transforming with more women working in those fields than ever before!
Seventy-eight years after the first appearance of Rosie on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, I’m working on breaking through gender stereotypes in my own field. I currently work as a college-level chemistry teacher, but my path to get here led me through lots of roadblocks and wrong turns.
Science, STEM, and Girls in Education
It may come as no surprise but throughout my years in school, many of my teachers were male, especially when it came to science classes. Even in high school, my science teachers were men. When I got to college it was especially hard to find any women in these higher education positions.
While I had a great relationship with all of my teachers and I learned a lot, as a woman who was interested in science, it was a bit discouraging to see all of my role models in these higher level positions were men. Some may say this even sends the signal to girls/women who are interested in sciences that there is no place for them in these fields.
Luckily, I’m not one to conform to standards and I pushed on, persevered, and obtained my degree in chemistry. I also went on to gain teaching certification in not only chemistry, but biology, physics, and earth sciences.
Women In Science Teaching Positions
High School Teachers
My next hurdle came when it was time to look for a job teaching science. My first job was a year-long position filling in for a male teacher who was on leave for a year. The school I worked at was a very large school, and our department alone had six science teachers, four of whom were men!
The entire time I worked there I felt like I was an outsider in some ‘men’s club’ and that I was just another pesky woman they had to work with. One of the men was assigned to be my mentor, as it is required by our state law that each new teacher have a mentor, however, I always felt like I was just a nuisance and never really got a lot of help adjusting to the school, learning to manage classes and none of my ideas for curriculum or programming were taken seriously.
After my year was up I had the option to re-apply for the position as the person who was on leave decided not to return, however, due to the environment I chose to move on.
Higher Education Instructors
After my experience with my first job, I worked as a fill-in substitute for many months. I then took a full-time position at a university, however, it wasn’t in a role I had a earned a degree for, it was instead a job that was considered a ‘typically female position’ — I worked as an executive assistant for the head of one of the departments. I was told it would be a great way to get my foot in the door and move up from there.
After working in this position for a few years, I realized there was no upward mobility in the cards for me as they were not looking to move me out of this position. I began looking around and applied for teaching positions at another school, interviewed, and was offered the position of chemistry instructor at a local community college!
While I am now in a position that I love and enjoy teaching STEM-related topics, I also focus on encouraging my students to really reach their goals and go further in their education.
One of the many obstacles I have to deal with in my current position is limited access to resources and funding. I’m currently teaching a chemistry class with no lab facilities available to me, and a very small budget to be able to purchase any supplies.
Instead of accepting those limitations, I took it upon myself to create lab experiences that I can do anywhere, in any class environment, so that I could give my students those hands-on experiences they need to expand and enhance their science knowledge.
Here is a lab we did recently with a homemade calorimeter (used to determine calories in food):
I still have gender stereotypes to deal with, many of the instructors that teach science at this college are men, and I am due to ask for a pay increase, but I really enjoy where I work and the feedback from my students has been extremely positive!
For Women’s History Month, The Brawny Man® is stepping aside to give the spotlight to strong, resilient women — celebrating women whose personal stories have inspired the rest of us STAY GIANT®.
You will also find some great paper towels! Brawny® Paper towels offer more sheets on every roll (vs. leading national brand comparable roll and sheet size) and help you clean up whatever life throws down.
Do you have an empowering story to share? Let us know in the comments below!