NYS Assembly, Albany, New York 12248

NYS seal

Report of the
Assembly Roundtable
on Women in



Women in
Non-Traditional Occupations

Fall 2001

NYS seal

New York State Assembly
Sheldon Silver, Speaker

Task Force on Women’s Issues
Joan L. Millman,

Standing Committee on Labor
Catherine T. Nolan,

Legislative Commission on Skills Development and Career Education
William Scarborough,


Dear Friend,

Traditionally, women have been clustered in a relatively few occupations, such as teaching, health services, and clerical jobs. Although this clustering has lessened over the past 20 years with more women entering the professions and management, gender differences in occupations are still very prevalent. For example, statistics from New York State in 2000 show that although women comprise almost 49 percent of the labor force overall, only about 10% of engineers, architects and surveyors, 29% of computer system analysts, 10% of protective service occupations, and one percent of those working in the construction trades are women.

Occupational segregation has had adverse consequences for women: an over supply of women workers in relatively few occupations may cause wages to be depressed. In addition, these occupations have been historically undervalued as "women’s work." On the other hand, non-traditional occupations for women — including skilled trades, technical jobs and protective service jobs — that provide relatively high wages and good benefits can be an important way for low-income women to escape poverty and achieve economic stability. Most importantly, neither women nor men should be discouraged from entering fields with good pay and benefits because a job has been traditionally a man or woman’s job.

To learn more about this important issue, a Roundtable on Women in Non-Traditional Occupations sponsored by the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues, the Committee on Labor and the Commission on Skills Development and Career Education was held in Brooklyn on May 3, 2000. This report highlights the ideas and information generated by the participants of the Roundtable. The findings provide a solid starting point for ongoing discussion and action on this important issue.


Assemblymember Joan L. Millman's signature Joan L. Millman

Assemblymember Catherine T. Nolan's signature Catherine T. Nolan

Assemblymember William Scarborough's signature William Scarborough

Roundtable Participants Identify
Challenges and Opportunities for Women
in Non-Traditional Fields...

The roundtable brought together experts from policy organizations, educational institutions, job training providers, labor organizations and employers to discuss the problem of occupational segregation for women. Some common themes of the discussion were:

  • the need to reach women and girls early in the educational process to change stereotypes and perceptions about occupational choice;
  • the value of internships, real work training and credentialing in order to overcome employers’ reluctance to hire non-traditional employees;

vertical line

  • the need to create links to the private sector, and involve middle management;
  • the importance of addressing the needs of self-employed women and other women in the independent workforce; and,
  • the need to achieve a critical mass in traditionally male-dominated occupations.

This report presents participants’ comments highlighting both the challenges and opportunities for women as they move into new career areas, and presents avenues for further analysis and action in this area.

woman and girl in library ...In Their
Own Words
purple lines

What does the research show about the data, trends and issues regarding occupational gender disparities?

Participants noted that women have made employment gains in areas such as the professions and management, but fewer gains in blue-collar occupations. Even in areas where women have made substantive gains, there is still a "glass ceiling" within workplaces, where there may be barriers to women’s promotion and advancement.

"...As you go up the various levels [of academic medicine] you have fewer and fewer women...While women are moving into the workforce they are not necessarily moving up as rapidly."

Dr. Eva Cramer, Associate Vice
President for Scientific Affairs,
SUNY Downstate Medical Center

"...Women [represent] 1.9% [of the construction workforce] in New York City and...whether it is a recession or an expansion, the numbers aren’t moving...If you never get above the 1.9% or 2%, you never have the critical mass, that is going to change institutional attitudes of the contractors, unions and agencies that fund either state or federal construction."

Dr. Francine Moccio, Director,
Cornell Institute of
Women and Work

"...Women are no longer a blip on the economic radar screen. They are opening up businesses in some cases at three times the rate of the national average. In 1999, they were 38% of all businesses in the US, and contributed $3.1 trillion in revenue and $27 million in employment."

Ojeda Hall-Phillips, Director,
Women’s Business Center of
New York

"What’s happening now is that one-third of the workforce is working independently. About 18% are part-timers; about 10% are independent contractors/self-employed; and 2% are temps or contract-type workers. The majority of people who work this way tend to be women."

Sara Horowitz, Director,
Working Today

H ow can we encourage women to study non-traditional fields and subjects?

Early exposure to science and technology including hands-on experience, providing female role models and non-traditional media images and increasing awareness among educators about gender stereotypes were among the actions stressed by participants.

"We have found over the years that girls tend to have very little information or awareness about [technical careers] other than what is provided through role models in their families and communi-ties...We need to help [young women] understand that the world of work is for everyone and every person can do any job that they choose to do."

Nona Smith, Director,
Access for Women,
New York City Technical College

Hands-on activities are important in teaching that "you don’t have to be an Einstein or be able to lift 200 pounds to repair a PC."

Angela Boone, Director,
Women in Technology Program,
Technical Career Institutes.

"One of the workshops we started...is training teachers in the high schools in New York how to teach science, how to bring it into the classroom...If you can get to the girls, get them interested in science early on, that gives them an in-centive to go on...to pursue a career in the sciences."

Pat Rockwell, Professor of Biology,
Hunter College

woman carpenter What are the barriers to entering specific occupation and professional training programs?

Barriers that participants identified included women’s lack of knowledge about non-traditional occupations, and perceptions of employers and labor groups that women are unsuited to perform certain jobs.

"Barriers are the private sector gentlemen who set the policies and still nurse the ideas that women can’t be plumbers, women can’t drive...We need to increase the private sector awareness of what we do and make their responsibility clear to them..."

Patricia Williams, Director,
Minority Business Opportunity
Center at the Brooklyn Economic
Development Corporation

"Nothing will change unless we address the education process and what is happening to girls in the schools...[The school system] has not provided the information for young women and girls to know that there are opportunities out there beyond what they have seen on television or learned in their homes."

Martha Baker, Executive Director,
NEW — Nontraditional
Employment for Women

"Even in traditionally female occupations, like teaching, there aren’t enough women in supervisory roles. Women themselves have not grown accustomed to new roles for women."

Florence Jackson,
Executive Secretary,
Advisory Council for Occupational
Education, New York City
Board of Education

Once on the job, what problems and opportunities do women in male-dominated occupations face?

Participants noted that the opportunities in non-traditional jobs include the ability to earn a living wage, good benefits, flexible hours and the potential for advancement. Workplace attitudes towards women have changed, according to participants, and there is less overt discrimination than in the past. But problems remain, ranging from issues such as "reverse gender segregation" — turnover of male-dominated occupations to female dominated occupations — to lack of preparedness of women for business ownership, to continued resistance to the advancement of women.

"I had never had any idea that I would ever become a carpenter...but working in the non-profit sector I was getting women jobs [in the trades] who were coming back with salaries that were double what mine was, so I thought I’d give it a shot....Construction is an entity unto itself, [with] its own language, its own behavior, its own hierarchy. You need to understand that if you are to be successful."

Elly Spicer, Field Representative,
NYC District Council of Carpenters,
Labor Management Trust Fund

"The number of women in journalism is increasing, but there has been at least one study showing a concomitant decline in income, that journalism has become in some senses a pink collar ghetto. Women want the jobs, so [the media] doesn’t have to pay them as much."

C. Claiborne Ray, Daily Obituary
Editor and Q & A Columnist,
Science Times, New York Times

What successful models exist for integrating women into non-traditional jobs?

" Just because there are equal numbers doesn’t mean there is equal opportunity, and just because there are equal numbers doesn’t mean there is equal advancement."

Deb Kaplan, President
Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

A number of successful programs were described by participants, including employment training, internships, outreach to girls and women, workplace diversity classes for supervisors, and others.

"NEW (Nontraditional Employment for Women) is a 23-year old program that started because we were looking for a place for women who did not have higher degrees in education, but had a desperate need to earn higher salaries. We provide a short term training program so that women interested in doing skilled blue collar work can be afforded the opportunity to enter a job market that often they are kept out of."

Martha Baker, Executive Director,
NEW — Nontraditional
Employment for Women

"The Women in Technology Initiative sponsors a series of workshops where women participants are informed of different high tech careers available. We also work with community or faith-based organizations by going out to do workshops. We have also developed a women in technology scholarship."

Angela Boone, Director,
Women in Technology Program at
Technical Career Institutes

Red Hook on the Road, a commercial driver training program, has been in operation for 5-6 years. It has "been a very successful program; about 50% of the people have been women over the five years. We have great placement rates of about 85% for people who complete the program and about a 90% job retention rate...The program is attractive to women for a number of reasons, including freedom, independence and flexibility...it’s a great thing to have the same schedule as your kids..."

Sarah Stafford, Director,
Red Hook on the Road

"We have a wonderful program called the parent/daughter program, for girls in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades, where we provide hands-on workshops in labs with math, electricity and computer projects. To enhance training, we provide role models. Students in the college program come talk to the young ladies and parents about the importance of studying math and science..."

Nona Smith, Director,
Access for Women,
New York City Technical College

Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Non-Traditional Fields

Task Force on
Women’s Issues

Hon. Joan L. Millman, Chair
Hon. Vivian Cook
Hon. Sam Hoyt
Hon. Rhoda S. Jacobs
Hon. Susan John
Hon. Naomi Matusow
Hon. Catherine T. Nolan
Hon. Scott M. Stringer

For more information, contact...
The Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues
Agency Building 4,
13th Floor
Albany, New York 12248

What is the role of educators, not-for-profit providers, labor, employers, government?

The role of educators and not-for-profit groups in providing not only programs but continuing advocacy for non-traditional employment, the need for adequate funding, the role of government in overseeing and enforcing existing law, and the role of private sector leadership in opening workplaces to women, were all themes raised by the participants.

"For non-profits, there is never enough money, there is never enough staff. Just providing the service is not enough, one has to provide the advocacy, one has to do the outreach, one has to work with government. All of these things take money."

Martha Baker, Executive Director, NEW —
Non-traditional Employment for Women

"..We have to look at what’s happening to the independent workforce and to start providing a constituency voice for this whole range of people who are working as independent contractors, free-lancers, part-timers. The major issue that’s affecting people [is that they] have fallen out of the new deal safety net."

Sara Horowitz, Director, Working Today

"We want to educate not only minority contractors but women contractors and small business owners to the success that can be theirs and the kind of aid that is available to become a union contractor..."

Elly Spicer, Field Representative,
NYC District Council of Carpenters,
Labor Management Trust Fund

Areas for further consideration purple lines

These insights and information will help guide Assembly initiatives and identify necessary next steps that will encourage women to consider non-traditional employment. The following areas have been identified for further consideration:

  • ensuring continued opportunities for women and minorities to participate as contractors and employees in state contracts;

  • encouraging the receptivity of apprenticeship programs and the trades to women;

  • promoting non-traditional employment as an option for low-income women and women transitioning from public assistance to work;

  • supporting non-traditional employment training programs;

  • studying the needs of the independent workforce and supporting policies to help women balance work and family responsibilities, including paid family and medical leave; and

  • promoting gender equity in career education.

Sheldon Silver
Sheldon Silver,
New York State

Joan L. Millman
Joan L. Millman,
Task Force on
Women’s Issues

Catherine T. Nolan
Catherine T. Nolan,
Standing Committee
on Labor

William Scarborough
William Scarborough,
Skills Development and
Career Education

New York State Assembly
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