The “go-to” professions, gender-ly speaking

Here’s what’s on my mind: Why is it that many of the women who stay in the same area they grew up in choose careers and professions in healthcare and education? There are so many women I’ve met upon graduating high school who aspire to be lawyers or technicians, but when it comes to the women who do not move away from home (so-to-speak), I find that the chosen profession is to become a teacher or a nurse. Let me iterate that being a teacher is not a bad profession nor that we need less nurses. They are both important and meaningful jobs. Rather, I am curious why teaching (especially in a primary or secondary school)becomes a go-to job for women. Or, why do more women work in nursing homes and as babysitters for their first jobs? I refuse to believe that it can be simplified to the fact that women can be mothers and therefore they have this “natural” tendency to care for others. Men have this tendency too.

It mildly frustrates me to think that “small-town” women are feeding the stereotype that the female species is best at care-taking and teaching. And, I don’t think getting more education is necessarily a predictor of which gender chooses which profession — since most of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree, and as the statistics show, graduate women have been outnumbering graduate men for years now. From my travels, there doesn’t appear to be any overt parental pressure for women to become teachers in the way that fathers stereotypically want their sons to become lawyers or accountants. There is a obvious choosing of the teaching and care-giving professions. These type of jobs are constantly hiring — at least in the spaces where I’ve lived the past 10 years — so, maybe that can be added to the explanation? It is just about demand?

Maybe the next question to ask is who are the female role models of these “small-town” women? Are they mostly teachers and nurses as well? As I analyze my own aspirations and career goals, I uncover the women who have been mentors and sources of inspiration to me over the years. Their presence mattered, even if I only acknowledged this unconsciously. One can read one of the many articles from Harvard Business Review to see the pace at which women are climbing to top executive positions, or how girls and STEM education are being discussed. My theory for now is that women need different role models. To start, we need to be encouraged to look up to bold women and sensitive men, and realize that wanting to be liked by everyone is overrated. Perhaps then we would see more girls wanting to build schools, not just wanting to teach in them.

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