Wonder Women

These savvy sisters are facing formidable challenges in male-dominated professions--and winning.

senior citizens to working mothers. “Highways are about more than asphalt, concrete and steel,” she concludes. “They’re about people. Instead of demolishing our communities, I can help improve them.”
Considering a Nontraditional Career?

As women make progressive inroads into professions ranging from law enforcement to the government sector or private industry, here are some specific strategies to ensure a successful journey up the career ladder.
1. Interview women and men who’ve worked in the profession you’re considering. Ask them about their work situation, the typical number of hours they put in and their office environment. What’s the general position on family life? Are child-care services available? Is there employment or labor union? How are grievances generally settled? Can you arrange for further training and development?
2. Consult a career counselor to clarify you career choices. Determine what are your most marketable skills, and what lifestyle and employment values are most important to you.
3. Understand that the work culture in nontraditional settings is often not conducive to the needs of African American women. In these fields, it’s considered the norm for employees to sacrifice their family life and make work their first priority.
4. Scout out willing and trustworthy professional role models, regardless of sex or color, and allow them to show you the ropes of your chosen industry.
5. Don’t sacrifice who you are or your unique attributes to get on the power track. Bring your diversity to the table.
Adapted from Sister Power: How Phenomenal Black Women are Rising to the Top in a Race-Conscious Society, by Patricia Reid-Merritt, John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

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