The Problem

It is frequently observed that in Jamaica, many households are headed by females while low-wages and part-time employment make it difficult for some of these women to support their families. It is worth noting that although females have relatively higher levels of educational attainment than males, they are disproportionately represented among the unemployed labour force. Couple this information with the fact that vast majority of the Jamaican workforce has no training or certification for the job they currently perform, and it suggests that there is scope for encouraging women towards non-traditional technical and vocational careers as an avenue for social and economic growth, expansion and development

Nontraditional careers are typically defined as occupations with less than 30% of workers of the same sex. Non-traditional careers for either sex are those that are usually viewed as appropriate for the opposite sex. Non-traditional careers for women are typically science, engineering, and careers in the trades and construction. With the renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it would be expedient to facilitate women in pursuing careers in these areas including areas that are non-traditional for them.

Women face, pay inequity, occupational segregation, and gender discrimination. Cultural stereotypes regarding which careers and occupations are suitable for women affect the way companies recruit and promote women and the way women select careers. Unemployment rates are typically higher for women while they are also over- represented in the informal sector. This approach translates into inefficiency in our labour markets and constitutes a waste of human resources. As women enter the labour force in increasing numbers, the need arises to expand employment opportunities for women and to shape their skill sets to meet the needs of the labour market.


Barriers to women entering non-traditional technical and vocational careers include lack of information regarding the pros and cons, lack of role models and pressure from peers or parents. In addition, learning institutions may not tailor education and training in these careers to appeal to women.

Stereotyping and discrimination also tend to result for women entering non-traditional careers. Their sexuality is questioned, they face harassment and dress to camouflage their femininity.

Sex bias acts as a barrier that limits female entry into non-traditional careers. Sex bias may manifest as sex stereotyping, sex-role spillover, pack mentality and somebody else’s problem. Women may be more challenged to work shifts, odd hours, overtime or relocate for work because they have family responsibilities.

Inadequate career counseling, inequitable curriculum design, lack of mentorship, marginal job placement assistance also act as barriers that reduce the likelihood of women entering non-traditional careers. Additional factors affecting women’s participation in non-traditional careers include economic position, household size, parents’ education, biological composition or genetic deficit, psychological disposition, policy factors and school related factors such as biased curriculum, role models and peer influence.


To address some of the issues affecting females accessing non-traditional careers in technical areas, educational institutions may review and revise their curriculum through strategic planning. The distinction can be made between long range planning and strategic planning. While both forms of planning are futuristic in outline, long range planning assumes a static educational institution while strategic planning takes into consideration the school’s environment and labour market needs. In being strategic, planners will question the status quo, question organizational purpose and identify and explore new endeavours.

 It is important to promote careers for women in non-traditional areas in ways that appeal to women. There should be information and promotion campaigns that inspire women’s application to non-traditional areas. An integrated approach would allow women to experience pre-training programmes that familiarize them with concepts and tool of the trade. Also recommended is the revision of curricula and materials from a gender perspective; private sector linkages and placements for females; job readiness classes to prepare women to handle occupational stereotyping, assertiveness, managing stress and discrimination, self-confidence building and childcare support.

In UNESCO’s strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) 2016-2021, UNESCO commits to supporting, measures enhancing women and girls’ access to relevant Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes and providing equal opportunities in the job market. This commitment is a step in the right direction as it acknowledges the fact a problem exists for women who hope to access their career of choice, particularly if that is in a male dominated area. It is also a position that would likely foster equal access and opportunities for women seeking to enter non-traditional careers.


An integrated approach to addressing the needs of women and encouraging them in entering non-traditional areas of TVET is arguably most helpful. Some advances in this area have been made however the evidence suggests that there is still much work to be done. It is indeed clear that greater levels of support are needed for women as they are valuable contributors in the workforce and in the economics of their family lives.

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