Rosie the Riveter may be over 50 years old, but she can still teach today’s kids a thing or two. Especially the kids at Rosie the Riveter High School, a small charter school in Long Beach, California. The school’s mission is to prepare girls for careers in “non-traditional” fields like welding, plumbing, carpentry and other trades.
The 50 students are mixed between boys and girls, but the schools focus remains on breaking down barriers for women in trade and technical careers that are still dominated by men.
Rosie the Riveter was a character created by the U.S. government during WWII to entice women into the factory jobs vacated by soldiers going overseas to fight.
At the high school that now bears her name, students learn trades from instructors at the area’s community colleges. They also take a full roster of academic courses required for graduation. Even the academic classes are getting into the school spirit. The English teacher is assigning a paper on Rosie the Riveter for her students.
Not all the schools students plan to go into vocational trades. While some are looking forward to trade careers, others have very different goals.
“I want to be a writer who deals with pop culture,” Neville Allen, 17, said. “My vocational studies are going to help give me ideas to write about.”
Lynn Shaw, one of the school’s founders, also runs the board of directors for Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles, a non-profit group that supports the school. Lynn herself has a doctorate in electrical engineering and teaches at a nearby community college.
She began her career as a laborer in a variety of jobs traditionally held by men. Shaw worked as a miner, a steelworker and a longeshoreman before going into academia.
She told the LA Times her career moves were all about the money, saying that women in non-traditional fields make 20%-40% more than those in working class jobs traditionally held by women. Like waiting tables, which Shaw has also done. Working a skilled trade instead gives a woman a lifetime earnings advantage of almost a million dollars.
Photo: Public Domain image of Rosie the Riveter