December 4th, 2009

Replicating Rosie

250px-womanfactory1940sThough Rosie the Riveter is an important feminist emblem, and represents a turning point in the history of women in the workforce, we don’t necessarily see so many Rosies around us in 2009.

Women dominate any number of fields, but the kind of work that they were recruited to do during World War II, and for which Rosie is a symbol, has remained the province of men. Female construction workers, for instance, are a rare sight in American cities.

In Long Beach, California, a charter school using Rosie as its namesake–Rosie the Riveter High School–aims to close the gender gap in technical fields like construction, auto mechanics and electrical engineering. Students (both boys and girls) take a full range of academic courses, but they also take vocational classes at a local community college.

The non-profit that sponsors the school, Women in NonTraditional Employment Roles, was started by Lynn Shaw, a former miner and steelworker who says that prejudice is often what keeps women closed out of these specialized fields. She emphasizes the financial benefits of this kind of work:

For me, it was all about the money. Women in nontraditional jobs earn 20% to 40% more than women in what are considered ‘traditional’ women’s jobs. That’s $1 million over a lifetime.

If Rosie the Riveter High produces a generation of female millionaires with biceps like Rosie’s, we’ll have no reason to complain.

Nailing a trade at Rosie the Riveter High [The LA Times, 12/3/09]

Women in NonTraditional Employment Roles (WINTER)

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