Women’s jobs have taken a hard hit during the pandemic. Many women took the main responsibility of caring for kids who couldn’t go to school, and many worked jobs (for instance in hospitality or retail) that didn’t last during lockdowns. Job and life burnout is another sad consequence that women are reporting at high rates.
Even before the pandemic, women in Mississippi (and everywhere!) faced a lot of challenges in the workplace. Yeah, we could definitely talk all day about discrimination, pay gaps, childcare challenges, etc., etc. Even today, these barriers continue to weigh down women’s careers.
But: for just a minute, we want to take a break from the bad news and share about a few opportunities that MS women DO have. We’d like to offer some hope, help you dream, and share some resources that could help YOU get farther up the career ladder.
This article is your invitation. Open it, and let your mind explore the slight possibility that there could be a new and interesting career out there for you… and it might be a job that women aren’t expected to do!
Why consider a non-traditional career path?
Many industries are driven by women. Currently, women dominate occupations like teaching, healthcare, and customer service. The necessary contributions of women in any industry are something to celebrate and honor!
However, it’s also a great time to consider that no industry or role that should be denied to women.
Don’t you think that every girl should grow up imagining that she can be a bank CFO, senior computer programmer, or biomedical engineer? These options are just as valid as jobs like professional assistant, teacher, or interior decorator… roles that women typically fill.
Here are some of the benefits for women who pursue non-traditional career paths:
- Earn more money and improve your financial future: many of these career options that tend to be filled by male workers have higher salaries.
- Find a satisfying career: many women discover their “sweet spots” when they break out of traditional roles and try something new.
- Set an example for your family and community! Blazing the trail and doing something new could give other girls and women the ideas and permission they need to explore unexpected career options!
Need some ideas? Think outside the normal career pool
We recently looked at the Trending Industries in Mississippi. Here are few highlights that Mississippi women should consider! Although these industries and roles are normally male-staffed, there are many chances for women to thrive.
Women are very under-represented in the tech field, which is integral to STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Software developers, computer engineers, app creators, data scientists, and other tech roles are usually filled by men. In one recent survey of software developers, only about 5% of respondents were women.
However, women thrive in these jobs too, and thankfully women are becoming more interested in STEM careers According to one study, 80% of women who were returning to the workforce after leaving during pandemic were considering a job in a STEM career.
There are a number of training sites that cater to women who want to enter a tech careers. Check out Women Who Code or Code Like a Girl for an intro into the tech world for women. You can also check with your local community college or university to see what programs they recommend for people who might not come from a tech background.
And hey, a side benefit of a career in tech… you might be able to help your brilliant middle-schooler with their robotics club projects!
Women have always had a strong presence in many healthcare roles like nursing, home care, and patient assistants.
However, more women are pursuing roles as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, surgeons, and hospital administrators. For instance, in 2019, 36% of physicians were women (up from only 6% in 1950!). At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, over 55% of the doctors are women.
And if you’re not interested in actually working with patients (and potentially encountering blood and guts at all that stuff…) don’t close your mind to a healthcare career. Healthcare requires so many supporting roles, including hospital administrators and CEOs, hospital HR managers, and managed care specialists.
Currently, about 30% of C-Suite positions in healthcare are filled by women. If you’re more business-minded or have a background in HR, specializing in healthcare administration might be a sweet spot for you!
Finally, let’s consider some career options that are more ROLE-based instead of industry specific.
Every industry needs managers, the people who know something about the industry or business AND who can also lead people.
The management sector featured prominently in the Mississippi employment projections. Over the next few years, our state is going to need more and more people who have the qualifications for leadership roles.
And don’t limit yourself to entry-level management positions like supervisor or first-line manager. You should pursue top-level management seats too: the “C-Suite” positions like CFO (chief financial officer), CIO (chief information officer), and CEO (chief executive officer).
Yes, women still face a lot of barriers when it comes to “moving up the management ladder.” However, women are making gains into higher management levels. The MIT Sloan Management Review also recently shared research that women tend to be promoted to high-ranking executive roles faster than men are. It’s time to reach for the top as you think about how you like to lead!
Don’t stop here
The whole point of sharing these ideas is to widen your career horizons, so don’t stop here! If you’ve always loved building things, then don’t forgo a career in construction management. If you’re geeky about science, then look into an agricultural career in Mississippi. (And just a reminder: if you are interested in industries that are traditional for women like teaching, hospitality, and retail, then that’s wonderful too!)
Prepare to rise
When you think about pursuing a non-traditional role, you know that you might face some barriers to entry. That’s a problem with the system, and a problem with humans, and no one person is going to solve that in their lifetime. However, you CAN set yourself up with the assets that you need to get yourself in the door, get the interview, get the job, and get the promotions that can take you to your goals.
Next steps when you’re ready to pursue an unexpected career
Get education & credentials: There are good jobs that don’t require a degree, but most career prospects improve if you DO have one. Also, many of the rising industries and jobs actually require degrees.
Gaining a degree can be a first step to reaching a non-traditional, higher-paying job. For example, bachelor’s degree holders earn 75% more over their lifetime than those with just a high school diploma.
Some exciting news just dropped too: Women now account for more than half of the college-educated workforce in the US. When we watch the statistics showing the benefits that come with a degree, we know that women will continue to make gains in the workforce.
Regardless of the job you pursue, a degree can give you the confidence that you’ll fit in as you climb the ladder. As one adult graduate said, “I dreamt of a degree for two reasons – first, to serve as an example for my kids, and second, because I felt I needed it to be considered an equal by the people I was doing business with. And I actually did it… I’m living proof that you’re never too old to do great things.”
You can do it too!
Adults who want to go back to college face some unique barriers, like needing extra childcare, juggling work schedules, and having a lot of bills. (Hello #adulting.) You can get help from the C2C Program in Mississippi, which provides resources to adults who want to back to college. C2C participants can get help from coaches, access grants to help pay for college, and even participate in degree programs. Everything C2C offers is designed to help adults finish college faster so that you can get out and realize the benefits of a degree. Learn more and register for C2C at MSC2C.org.
Build your network Spending time with other people can also give you an essential edge as you seek to grow your career possibilities. Even in the era of online job boards, many open job opportunities still aren’t published. If you’re feeling stumped about how to grow your network (and if you’re worried about stuffy so-called “networking meetings”) then check out this how-to article on networking. Building your network is easier than you think, and it could be vital to your career.
Build your resume – Move up at your current job. Research shows that there is a “broken rung” on the ladder for those who want to move up into higher management: women are promoted less often into first-line management roles. For people who don’t have this early management experience, it is of course more difficult for them to be promoted to higher levels of management.
Even if you’re not interested in a lot more responsibility right now at your job, it can be helpful to apply for and take even first-line management positions because they can be a stepping-stone to future opportunities.
Pro Tip for Busy Moms: If you’re a busy mom it might feel impossible for you to even finish all the dishes, let alone pursue a new power career! If that’s you right now, then remember that there’s life after the intense motherhood. Take small steps now (like chipping away at your college degree or building your network) and soon you’ll have time to think about your next big career move.
What’s your next step?
Hopefully you have some new ideas, and your horizon is expanded!
Whatever your career dreams, if you’re thinking about adding a college degree to your résumé, definitely check out the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program in Mississippi. It helps adults like you go back to college and finish a degree. Participants can get grant money, individualized coaching, and other resources to help them finish faster. Learn more and register for the free program now!