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Calling All ‘Rosies’

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Written by Anna AranetaAugust 16, 2016

Nontraditional Occupations for Women

On August 13, 2016, over two thousand women impersonating “Rosie the Riveter” and some real Rosies crammed the Craneway Pavilion in my town of Richmond, CA to celebrate the WWII Homefront Festival. The gathering broke the Guinness World Record of the most numbers of women dressed as Rosie as reported * here.

Beside the Craneway Pavilion is a museum dedicated to the women who stepped forward to fill the defense industry jobs during World War II, while men were drafted to the military. “Rosie the Riveter” is an icon representing hundreds of women who enjoyed the opportunity of learning skills on the job, earning more than they ever had, and serving their country by answering the call of the war homefront effort. Their jobs included, but were not limited to ship fitters, riveters, pipefitter, rigger, electrician, welder, machinists, and guards. They built airplanes and ships designed for battle.

During that time, their jobs were considered technical and nontraditional for women. The defense industry employed minorities, immigrants and women in massive numbers. As a result, the diverse workforce brought significant social change. For the first time, the federal government was forced to address issues like child care, health benefits, fair employment practices and housing for workers.

The Coming Diverse Workforce

Flash forward to 2020 when technology jobs will outnumber qualified people to fill them; UNLESS women and people of color, the portion of the population scarce in technology fills these tech jobs. The tech industry’s effort to recruit women and people of color is an afterthought, instead of a conscious plan. The good news is, some enlightened tech companies are investing in educational initiatives to make learning computer science interesting and fun. After all, it is in the company’s interest to have a diverse workforce now and in the future. Today, girls and young women are getting more exposure to computer science through organizations like Girls Who Code, Women Who Code. These organizations recognize that girls need a separate environment from boys to learn and get support. Many inequities, stereotypes, weak academic foundations in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math), lack of mentors and gender conditioning still exist. Approaching girls to enter technical and scientific careers means taking away barriers. Encouraging propensity for creativity and problem solving can be a segue to sciences without intimidation. The 21st century workforce needs training as early as possible, and include everyone that is able to contribute.

By answering the call of the 21st century workforce, women will participate in building a strong, competitive economy hopefully, in peacetime. Unlike the Rosies of World War II, modern-day Rosies have much more options to make a difference in the world and for themselves.

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