The Future Of Nontraditional Occupations For Women: A Comprehensive Review Of The Literature And Implications For Workplace Learning And Performance

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Kenneth Zula


Non-Traditional Occupations (NTO), Women, Workplace Learning and Performance


The United States entrance into World War II in 1941 has been credited with beginning a large movement of women into the workforce and the commencement of governmental support for women working in nontraditional occupations. However, the beginning of the support for women in the workforce can be traced back to the 1920 federal mandate to create the Womens Bureau within the United States Department of Labor. The United States Department of Labor Womens Bureau is the only federal agency mandated to represent the needs of wage-earning women in the public policy process. The workingwomen tradition has continued into modern day and the number of workingwomen continues to increase steadily, however, the number of women entering nontraditional occupations has declined to 4.9 percent from 7.1 percent in 1983.

There has been an effort to increase the number of women in nontraditional occupations in order to increase high skill/high wage employment to provide women with the opportunity for self-sufficiency. Women predominately are employed as clerical workers, childcare providers, sales clerks, and in other low skill/low wage employment, which does not lead to self-sufficiency. Workingwomen largely remain in nonprofessional occupations (73%), where NTO gains have been minimal.

This study provided the preliminary exploratory of the literature to establish best practice guidelines to encourage women to enter non-traditional occupations (NTO). The major factor identified from literature is career self-efficacy. Career self-efficacy can be increased through: performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal.

The results of this study reveal that women have perceived challenges to nontraditional occupations, which are rather easily overcome but have been a hindrance to their pursuing nontraditional employment. Challenges include sex-role socialization, discrimination and harassment, transportation and childcare issues, the nontraditional workplace may be hazardous which requires special equipment or gear, extreme weather conditions, and the potential job related injuries.

This study has indicated and established a positive correlation for the use of best practice guidelines in career counseling and development in regard to career decision-making. Career development and career counseling for NTOs requires a set of guidelines. The guidelines for NTOs should include best practice within the industry or field. Best practice guidelines ensure a common, consistent approach to successfully achieve the highest and best possible outcome. Formal training and education for NTOs have a prescribed set of best practice guidelines. The best practices guidelines for career counseling and career development programs for women entering NTOs include: (1) focusing on performance accomplishments, (2) participating in observational learning, (3) attending to emotional arousal, and (4) receiving verbal persuasion and encouragement.


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