Posted by: Tom Ross | January 23, 2013

The Career Path Less Traveled

Remember this riddle from the last millennium: A man is driving his son to school. They get into an accident and the man dies. The son is rushed to the hospital and when he arrives for emergency surgery the doctor says, “I can’t operate on this boy. HES MY SON!”

Today you are probably trying to find the riddle in the riddle–our expectations around gender and careers have evolved. (If not, ask someone. Or keep reading.)


Kern Regional Occupation Center’s Diesel class in Bakersfield, CA

Why does this photo make us smile? Aside from the obvious joy in the faces of the participants, we feel a certain revolutionary pride in the blurring of work roles based on gender.  It’s the freedom to follow your passion unhindered by traditional expectations.

Another example: this is my buddy Jake who lives in Hawaii.


Jake is a nurse practitioner. He can take his skills anywhere and tailor his schedule to his lifestyle. And he’s making a good salary.

At the moment, men represent only 7.2% of registered nurses. But that is changing.


From TrailBlazers in Virginia

What is a non-traditional career path? It is defined as one where fewer than 25% of the workforce is of your gender.

For women and girls, the field of technology—typically a male-dominated realm—is evolving as well.  IGNITE, a Seattle based non-profit organization, is showing young girls the possibilities represented by STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. An article in USA Today about the Center concludes,  “Amid concern that the nation isn’t preparing enough students for the high-tech workforce of the future, accomplished tech-savvy women are emerging as a force aimed at unleashing the untapped potential of girls. The first step: disproving a stereotype that computing is a guy thing.”

The Career Equity Resource Center at Rutgers offers these Fast Facts for nontraditional career choices in CTE:

  • Careers that are nontraditional for one of the genders, such as information technology, nursing, and engineering, often experience a labor shortage, so there is a high demand for skilled employees in those occupations.
  • Trailblazing women who work in nontraditional fields can expect a lifetime earnings of 150% more than comparable women in traditionally female occupations.
  • It has also been found that people in nontraditional careers enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction as they are working in fields they have a genuine interest in, regardless of gender stereotype.

The Hawaii State Board of Career Technical Education gives these reasons, among others, to choose a nontraditional career:

  • You’ll spend more than 30 years working and you’ll want to enjoy it. (Check out this video.)
  • You can earn up to 30% more working in non-traditional jobs.
  • You can earn enough to get what you want from life.
  • Your training and education lays a solid foundation for your future.
  • You’ll learn new ways of thinking and dealing with others.
  • Your skills will be needed in key fields. (Check out this guidebook.)

Students, both male and female, are bucking the stereotypes and following the career paths that interest them most, traditional or not. And according to the predictions for the workforce of the future, the time is right.


  1. Brava! and Bravo! Our world will be a better place with more women engineers and male nurses. We are going to need “all hands on deck” to solve the challenges ahead, to design, to build, to care and to heal.

  2. Very interesting. Makes sense. The only problem is that the career path decision is a lengthy one, so getting young people to grasp this concept is the first step, the real results will take five years until they graduate and are skilled to pursue this newly identified alternative career path

  3. […] my last blog post I talked about how CTE facilitates nontraditional career paths for both boys and girls. Students […]

  4. Women and Girls Still Missing from Career and Technical Education in High Paying Fields, Some States Showing Progress From this report from the IWPR:

  5. […] our blog The Career Path Less Traveled, Google announced it has created a $50 million initiative called “Made With Code” that will […]

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