NEW CASTLE —
It’s not uncommon to see Natalie Simon driving through Moraine and McConnell’s Mill state parks in a truck.
As environmental education specialist at both sites, it’s just part of the job.
Simon realizes her duties fall under the title of nontraditional jobs for women.
So does Kinorea Tigri, who drove a big rig with her husband for 13 years — hauling heavy loads across ice-covered roads in Alaska and Canada.
Tigri used that experience to become commercial truck driver instructor at the New Castle School of Trades, where she is now satellite facility director.
While Simon and Tigri represent a growing trend, they still are among a minority. A report from the White House Council on Women and Girls said it’s “especially disconcerting” that women make up only 25 percent of the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing — or STEM — workforce.
The report also indicates that gender stereotyping and the lack of female role models in math, science and technology may be dissuading girls from entering these fields.
The good news, though, is that women who do hold STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other occupations.
BLAZING THE WAY
Susan Fithian, 28, and Brandy Bedilion, 35, both are doing their part to beat the odds.
Fithian and Bedilion are the only two women in their diesel power generation course at the school of trades.
It was a career change for Fithian, who was a certified surgical technician but always enjoyed working on vehicles.
According to Tigri, that program provides instruction on repairing and troubleshooting electrical power generators, which is “big demand right now.”
On occasion, Fithian said, she has been asked whether she can handle the demands of such a job.
Any obstacles, though, have been stepped over and she will graduate in December with an associate’s degree in diesel technology and power generation with a Class A CDL. Fithian aspires to work in a shop as a technician.
She’s aware that there is still gender separation regarding certain jobs but sees improvement in that area.
“If you have an interest in a non-traditional job, go after it,” Fithian advised.
Bedilion, who will graduate in October, has been working around vehicles since she was six and her grandfather had an inspection garage. An Army veteran, she plans to keep her options open on job choices.
Along the way, though, “I had to teach the guys that, as women, we are capable of performing the same job just as well.”
That was proven when she and Fithian wired an industrial engine from scratch and excelled in that endeavor, earning respect from the school’s sponsors and male classmates, Tigri said.
“Women can do anything,” Bedilion noted. “We’re living proof of it. This is all hard work, but worth it in the end.”