It's really good to put this traditional and non-traditional into focus. I like to think of it in terms of a sliding scale. We have traditional on one end and we have non-traditional on the other. We might be traditional if we were doing the care work in the home - looking after everyone's needs and raising children. But at those times when we were feeding sheep, stowing wood, fixing the roof, plastering the hole in the wall or splitting wood, we were non-traditional in comparison to some of our more traditional sisters.
I prefer to look at traditional and not traditional as a sliding scale of sorts - not as two absolute positions. As a young lady, I had all of these women who were pretty non-traditional on the home front but they did not work in the non-traditional world. Let's save the discussion for the paid/unpaid for another day. If I were to put a dot on the sliding scale today, I'd be more non-traditional. I'm the sole breadwinner. I am the head of the household. I'm a journeyed mechanic and I am a leader. I am also a women - hear me roar!!!!! I have moved along that scale at different times in my life. We can do that on a scale.
I chose a non-traditional career - I joined the Army and became a mechanic. It was unheard of where I came from but the reality was - I didn't look at myself as doing anything ground breaking. I was surviving. Going on to higher education is often not a major concern when your basic needs are challenged - I needed to make a living and I wanted adventure. So off I went to join the Army. The attraction was the same that it is today for those of us who did not come from privilege. "They paid for your education and they gave you a job." At that particular time, they were recruiting women in trades. Voila - I'm a tradeswoman. I was also a great fit.
Let's look at this being a good fit or having an aptitude for the work for a moment - women who grow up in homes where their male family members worked outside the home in commercial construction are often well suited to the trades. It's not rocket science.
This is not accidental. Anyone who has spent a minute in our homes knows that when our men are not working - they're talking about work. So I always say to my sistah's "We may not have the practical experience when we start in the trades but we have all the theory." We may not be part of the conversations but we're certainly learning a thing or two. We're especially learning the "language of industry". So when there are initiatives that recruit from our neck of the woods, generally speaking they're getting a woman who has done a lot of the Orientation already. Funny how that works - eh boy??
There's more to learn of course and that's what I like teaching - the psychology of transitioning from a woman in trades to a trades woman. There is a transition that takes place in how you look at yourself and it impacts your relationships in the workplace. It impacts your relationships with other women who are often somewhere else on this sliding scale.
Real success in the trades comes not only from being great at your job but from understanding who you are. It means coming to terms with the feelings of isolation and knowing why you feel the way you do. Real success is much more then strapping on your tool belt ladies - it's about sticking on your thinking cap too. That's the part that I enjoy now - reaching out to the sisters and journeying with them to real leadership in trades.
Oh the joy of self acceptance.....