The percentage of Minnesota women working in traditionally male-dominated occupations, like firefighting and mining, grew significantly during the 1990s, according to new data from the 2000 census.
Of the 40 states whose occupational data have been released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota ranks first in the percentage of women working in protective service occupations (which encompasses everything from fire fighters and police officers to bailiffs and security guards).
Minnesota was outpaced only by Washington, D.C., in that category. Women account for 24 percent (7,230) of the state's 30,238 protective service workers, and their numbers almost doubled -- rising 98.6 percent -- in the '90s.
Minnesota ranked first in one of the more predictable sectors for women -- health care occupations. But, like the teaching and social service sectors, finding more women working as health care technicians isn't too surprising. Finding them drilling wells or working at a dam is.
At 16.5 percent, Minnesota reports the fourth-highest rate of women (1,125 out of 6,826 total) working in rail and water transportation industries, and the fifth-highest percentage (7 percent, or 106 out of 1,505) in the number engaged in mining, well-drilling and other so-called "extraction" occupations.
Mary Marsden, vice president at American Security Corp., which for 40 years has provided security, investigative, armored-car and cash-management services in the Midwest, said she wasn't surprised by the gains in protective jobs.
Marsden said when she joined the company 30 years ago, there were no women working as security guards. But in the past five years, "we've had more applying."
She says the change is twofold. "One is that the few women who came into the security area eight to 10 years ago have worked their way up and there's also been a change in attitude with the men in the last few years."
Minnetonka Police Chief Joy Rikala, who joined the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in 1975, said she believes more Minnesota women are drawn to law enforcement because, "We have educational standards that are different than any other state in the country. We are probably the leader in demonstrating that law enforcement is a professional position. Many states still look at being a cop as a blue-collar job, but because we require a two-year educational degree, people look at it as something to sustain themselves."
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