New Castle News

December 13, 2012

Women in nontraditional careers share stories

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Some gems of conversation emerged yesterday regarding nontraditional career choices for women.

Using a chat room format, Girls Engaging Mentors or the GEM Affair, presented opportunities for 140 freshman and sophomore female students from county schools to receive first hand information at Butler County Community College.

As environmental education specialist for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks, Natalie Simon was inspired to choose that field after visiting national and state parks as a child.

“This is an area that’s very welcoming completely to women,” Simon said. “There are great careers working in the outdoors,” she continued, adding that jobs once considered to be a man’s arena are now attracting women.

The roster of presenters read like a Who’s Who of successful career women from the area.

With Shania Twain’s “I’m More Than a Pretty Face,” playing in between the 20-minute sessions, small groups of students moved from room to room to meet with female judges, legislators, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs and attorneys.

Paula McMillin, executive director of Lawrence County School to Work, organized GEM at BC3 Lawrence Crossing and titled the chat rooms with gem themes — pearl, emerald, amethyst, sapphire, garnet, ruby and topaz.

McMillin’s goal was to help change the career conversation into looking at jobs in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing, commonly referred to as STEM.

“We’ve assembled an incredible, remarkable group of very accomplished women who couldn’t wait to tell their stories to these girls,” McMillin said, while handing out kudos to Diane DeCarbo, director of BC3 for offering the use of the facility.

In the Amethyst Room, the topic was Spirit of an Entrepreneur, and Jennifer Miles, professional photographer and owner of Milestone Images, encouraged the young women to “take that step.”

Leslie Sansone, owner of Walk Productions and nationally recognized fitness expert also had advice for her audience.

“Starting today, be the author of your own life,” Sansone said. “Act on your ideas. You can do many things and be creative.”

During high school, Diane Shaffer, Lawrence County first assistant district attorney said, she was told there were three career options — secretary, teacher or nurse — and none of those appealed to her. She said she was older when she became a nontraditional student and went on to law school.

Shaffer advised, “No matter what you want to do, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”

McMillin noted that, “Although more women than men graduate from college, the majority pursue degrees in fields of humanities, arts, education, health and welfare. Only seven percent of women are employed in the high paying engineering fields and computer science fields.”

Her hope is that the girls left being inspired to explore occupations they may not have considered before.

“Crossing the boundaries into non-traditional territory has exploded,” McMillin pointed out. “The conversations between the girls and these successful women will open a whole new world of career exploration.”

(Email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com.)