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Trailblazers: These women forged their own paths in minority occupations

Meet eight local women offering a helping hand to the next generation of women in their fields

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They’re women who stand out in the crowd – pilots, firefighters, soldiers, engineers, architects, welders, manufacturers and chief executives.

Trailblazers.

Being a working woman means being just less than half of the U.S. workforce – 46.8 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In America today, the top three most-common occupations for women are elementary and middle school teachers, registered nurses, and secretaries and administrative assistants. Following those are nursing, psychiatric and home-health aides, customer service representatives, managers, retail supervisors, cashiers, office and administrative support supervisors, accountants and auditors.

According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of women providing the sole or primary source of income in homes with children less than 18 years old rose from 11 percent to 40 percent between 1960 and 2011. Of these breadwinners, 5.1 million – or 37 percent – are married mothers. The remainder – 8.6 million – are single mothers. Despite this, women are estimated to earn 84 percent of what similarly employed men make – a 16-cent pay gap.

A recent study by the American Association of University Women found that a full-time working woman in Missouri makes 78 cents on the dollar compared with her male counterparts. This is a pay gap of 22 percent and makes Missouri 30th in the nation in pay gap equity.

According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research, male-dominated fields pay 20-30 percent more than female-dominated jobs.

“Women in Missouri and all over the country are sick of unequal pay,” AAUW CEO Kim Churches said in a news release. “Pay inequity harms our families and employers, while also robbing our economy of billions of dollars. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to close the pay gap and do it soon.”

Combining efforts for better representation, wages and respect for working women, the tides are shifting – as demonstrated by movements such as the #MeToo hashtag and Time’s Up.

Yet, that’s only been in recent years. For much longer and despite the odds, women have forged their own paths in a society where the statistics were not in their favor for equal opportunity.

That’s why they’re trailblazers.

—Hanna Smith, Features Editor

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