Non-Traditional Careers for Women

woman in non-traditional career
••• Portra Images / Taxi / Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor defines a non-traditional career for women as one in which 25% or less of those employed in the field are women (Nontraditional Occupations for Women. U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau).  It is hard to believe that, in the 21st century, the Department of Labor lists over 100 occupations that fall into this category, among them police officer and architect. It has been over a century since Los Angeles appointed its first female police officer. More than 130 years ago,  Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first female professional architect, set up practice in Buffalo, New York (Companion to Women in the Workplace by Dorothy Schneider and Carl F.

Schneider, ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1993).

Some Facts About Non-Traditional Careers for Women

  • According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, in 2013 the median weekly earnings of women who worked full-time were only 82% of men's median weekly earnings.
  • Women are underrepresented in occupations across many occupational groups including those in the construction trades and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
  • Non-traditional occupations offer a woman higher entry-level wages and higher pay as she advances in her career.

Examples of Non-Traditional Careers

When choosing a career, women should consider all the options available to them. There aren't any occupations that a woman is incapable of doing based on her gender alone. As is the case for any individual, female or male, one will have to meet certain qualifications for the career he or she is considering.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, here are some of the occupations that are considered non-traditional for women (Non-Traditional Occupations. U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau):

  • Detective or Special Agent: Detectives or special agents collect facts and gather evidence about suspected crimes.  
  • ArchitectArchitects design buildings, making sure they are functional and safe, and meet the needs of those who are going to use them.
  • ChefChefs prepare food, supervise culinary workers, and run the kitchen in restaurants and other dining establishments.
  • BarberBarbers cut and style men's hair.
  • Clergy MemberClergy members are the religious leaders of houses of worship. They lead services and provide spiritual guidance to congregants.
  • Railroad ConductorRailroad conductors coordinate the activities of freight and passenger train crews.
  • MachinistMachinists use machine tools to produce precision metal parts such as titanium bone screws that are used in orthopedic implants, bolts of steel, hydraulic parts, and antilock breaks.
  • Truck DriverTruck drivers transport goods between locations.
  • FirefighterFirefighters control fires, rescue trapped survivors, and sometimes provide emergency medical treatment.
  • PilotPilots transport people and cargo on aircraft, including airplanes and helicopters.
  • CarpenterCarpenters build and install wood, fiberglass, and drywall structures.
  • ElectricianElectricians install and maintain electrical wiring and other components in commercial and residential buildings.
  • MasonMasons build structures out of bricks, stones, and concrete blocks.
  • HVAC TechnicianHVAC technicians install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
  • Small Engine MechanicSmall engine mechanics maintain, inspect, and fix motorized equipment.

Additional Resources

Here are resources to help you gather more information about non-traditional careers for women.

National Association of Women in Construction: "NAWIC is an international association that promotes and supports the advancement and employment of women in the construction industry."

Nontraditional Employment for Women: NEW is an organization, based in New York City, that provides "occupational skills and fitness training, job readiness, counseling and case management, and job placement services in occupations in which women are underrepresented."

Myths and Facts About Women and Nontraditional Occupations: If someone says "you can't work in that field because it's not for women," show them this article.