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Are gender roles in the workplace a thing of the past?

Mary Hovenga, Powerline

Mary Hovenga participating in one of her Powerline classes.

MARSHALLTOWN – Traditional male/female roles may be a thing of the past. More women than ever before are finding their calling in the trades programs, and shattering expectations along the way as well as men being in demand in nursing.

The number of women entering the trades is ever growing year after year. Mary Hovenga, a Powerline student and Roxana Orellana, a Machine Tool and Die Technology student at Marshalltown Community College are two females that are working hard to change stereotypes and join the fields they are passionate about. They will tell you they didn’t choose these career fields to prove anything or even for any other purpose than to find a career that they enjoy.

Hovenga, a Grinnell High School graduate was always encouraged in high school to attend a four-year college. She grew up thinking she might study Environmental Science at a four-year school. She loves being in the outdoors. “I grew up in the outdoors, around factory workers and welders,” she commented. “I was always geared in that direction.”

Someone brought the idea of attending a two-year or community college to her attention.  After attending a career day at MCC and hearing about the Powerline program and seeing what they did, she knew this was the route for her. “When I can take a two-year program and make the same amount of money as graduates of four-year programs, it really got my interest going.”

The fact that the Powerline program is predominantly male doesn’t intimidate Hovenga at all. “It was awkward at first but only because I was the only female. As soon as the other students saw that I could pull my own weight and contribute as much as they could, it’s never been an issue.” When asked about challenges that she has had during the program Hovenga really didn’t have any. “I may not have the upper body strength that they have but I use my legs more. I can do all of the same things maybe just differently.”

When asked what advice she would give other females that were looking at this program she said, “Learn as much as you can and push yourself. You may not be at the same level with some aspects of the training but you will be better at others. Just keep trying and prove them wrong if they doubt you.”

Roxana Orellana, a Machine Tool and Die Technology

Roxana Orellana in the Machine Tool and Die Technology Lab at MCC.

Orellana, a first year MCC student and Marshalltown High School graduate, has similar advice as Hovenga. “No matter what anyone else says, if you think you would like it you should do it. If it doesn’t make you happy, what is the point?”

Orellana became interested in the Machine Tool and Die Technology program after attending an open house on campus. “When I saw the workshop and all of the machines and then saw how everything worked, I knew this would be a fun program to be part of.”

Knowing that this field was typically male dominant, wasn’t a surprise to Orellana but she was a little taken aback by the fact that she was the only female student in the Machine Tool and Die Technology program. “I think in the past there have been more guys in this field, but it is starting to open up for women and see more options.”

Orellana is enjoying the program and is having fun making tools and doesn’t see the challenges of being a female in this program.

Cody Sicard MCC Nursing

Cody Sicard during a simulation lab on the MCC campus.

Cody Sicard is on the other side of the field where he is entering a career that is more female prominent. Sicard, a BGM High School graduate, is in his second year in the MCC nursing program. He started taking nursing prerequisite classes in high school but then changed career direction for a brief time going to college out of state for Meteorology.

He returned to nursing after a semester of college out of state to join MCC’s nursing program. “Every opportunity I could grab onto I did and it all pulled me into nursing,” commented Sicard.” He realizes that male nurses aren’t common but they are increasing all of the time. Sicard plans to continue his education and career to become an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner.

Sicard says that in the past the assumption has been if you are a male you are studying to be a doctor, but the role of nurses is advancing more and more. “With a nursing education, I feel I am able to have more hands-on patient care experience. It is also much more cost effective than going through medical school. You can even get your licenses quicker if you take programs at trade schools and community colleges.”

“The industry is beginning to embrace male nurses. The physical labor demands of the industry is starting to become even more intense, and I feel male nurses can also offer a different emotional environment and perspective in the workplace.”

Sicard had this parting word of advice for students going through training last year and this year. “If you can go through school during a global pandemic, it can only get easier from there.”

A career doesn’t have to be male or female dominate anymore and it is happening less and less. Find the career that fits you no matter what the past perceptions may be.

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