The Chronicle’s “Everyday People” feature sometimes spotlights people who aren’t so “everyday.” A case in point is Gavriella Oliver, who was written about in the June 18 edition. Oliver is an apprentice electrician – not a career you’d expect a 21-year-old female to be pursuing.

And it’s those expectations that are the problem.

We like to think that the old barriers – gender roles set in stone – are in the past. But in actuality, they are very much still with us. Construction sites are primarily populated by men, even when a woman could do the work as well as, or maybe even better than, men. The same is true for many professions. Many men have chosen nursing as a career, but that profession is still dominated by women. And women have made major inroads into law and medicine, but men make up the majority in those professions.

Oliver has made a bold choice to pursue a career as an electrician. And she may face some skepticism along the way. She’s blazing a trail for other women who may want to consider a career in the building trades. And she’s demonstrating that there are career arcs other than those through the four-year college degree route – one that is becoming onerously expensive and can saddle graduates with excessive student loan debt.

Young women are all encouraged to think outside the stereotypes they may have grown up with. Those who do pursue a college degree should consider a career in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. Those are fields that continue to be dominated by men despite the fact that girls outscore their male counterparts in those areas throughout much of the elementary and high school education. And following Oliver’s example, young women and men may want to at least consider well-paying careers in the trades as an alternative to college.

Stereotypes are wasteful. By pigeonholing the genders into certain occupations, the talents of those who are shut out are squandered.

Oliver is commended for making the career choice she did and setting an example for others to cast aside stereotypes when considering their futures.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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