WESTBROOK – Despite great strides toward gender equality in recent decades, there are still some fields that remain dominated by men, which is why a special event at the Westbrook Vocational Center Friday is taking aim at that stereotype.

“Heavily female occupations tend to pay less than male-dominated occupations,” said Caroline May, manager of the southern region of Women, Work and Community, a statewide training organization that supports women in the Maine workforce.

The program, Totally Trades, will be going on in the morning of Oct. 14, starting at 7. The freshmen and sophomore attendees will get to participate in a number of hands-on exhibits, all focusing on vocational trades in what the organization dubs “non-traditional” fields.

Among the trades being showcased, May said, students will get to build a replica of a bridge, learn about cable television installation, build a toolbox, and even use a simulator to practice driving tractor-trailer trucks. Participants will also have the chance to talk to women who have become successful in these fields.

“These events should open the eyes of a lot of people,” the organization’s executive director, Gilda Nardone said in a statement. “Maine’s career and technical education schools are doing amazing work introducing young women to program areas in non- traditional fields such as the building and metal trades, engineering, automotive technology, small engine repair, truck driving as well as green and composite technologies. Events like these provide just a sample of the opportunities available.”

The goal of the program, May said, was to make sure that girls know every opportunity that exists for them, not just the jobs that society dictates girls are “supposed” to be doing.

“We just want them to have choices,” May said.

The program, May said, is open to freshman and sophomore girls, since most vocational classes begin in the junior year. The organization has been presenting similar events annually statewide for years, May said, but reached out to Westbrook because the program hadn’t been done this far south in the state for some time.

“They’ve been enthusiastic about it,” May said of the vocational center in Westbrook. “They’ve been great partners.”

Todd Fields, the center’s director, said this week that he can see the need for such a program. There are plenty of female students at the center, he said, but when asked how many female students participate in non-traditional fields, he said, “not as many as we’d like.”

Fields agreed that there are few female students interested in heavy equipment, electrical, and other related industries. Similarly, he said, there are few men who are interested in the medical or early childhood development vocations.

“It would be nice if all of our groups were 50/50,” he said.

Fields said he hopes Friday’s program will give women new opportunities to pursue their dreams and find success well beyond high school.

“Females who are in non-traditional trades do very well after high school,” he said. “I think some of them just don’t know that.”

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