By Jill Fick, Public Relations Specialist

Male-dominated and female-dominated jobs have always been part of the landscape in American workplaces, but those barriers are beginning to fall. And Terra State is helping to open non-traditional careers to both men and women.

Here are four Terra State stories that make that point:

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Agnes Martino admittedly has always been a tinkerer. So it’s not surprising that she found her way into the Power and Controls program at Terra State. She already has one certificate and is four courses from completing her degree.

Her father drove semis for more than 30 years and she developed the love of machinery early. She has a photo of herself at the age of two “fixing” a lawnmower. She went to a diesel school in Connecticut and for a time was a garbage truck mechanic.

Unfortunately, an injury she sustained on the job detoured her mechanical career for a while. She’s been a housekeeper, a barista at a tea store, a valet parker and a social services employee. She has built trusses, repaired houses and has stocked bars.

But gears, bushings and bearings continued to call for her.

“I’m one of those people that I see something running and I want to know what makes it run. I want to take it apart,” Martino said. “I want to see the mechanics of it or the electrical side of it and see how it works, and then put it all back together. One of the greatest feelings is when you put it all back together and it still works.”

Besides her classes at Terra State, Martino keeps busy as a controls engineer at Progress Design and Machine – TAC (Toledo Automated Concepts). It was a job she found at a Terra State job fair.

She has definitely seen a gender gap in industry.

“Whether it be mechanical or electrical, there’s the old school thinking that’s still in the industry,” Martino said of the male-dominated profession. “I’m one of those people who go against the grain. I’m very bullheaded. You can tell me I can’t do something and I’m going to prove to you that I can.”

And she has been discriminated against because of her gender.

“A lot of guys think girls are stupid and because it’s such a male-dominated world, they treat you like an idiot,” she said. “And the best way of getting around that or dealing with that is doing whatever is possible to prove them wrong. But that’s just a by-product really. What it really should be is proving to yourself that you can do it. I believe in myself.”

That’s her message for others.

“I want the younger generation, whether you’re a guy going into a female-dominated field like nursing, or a girl coming into a man’s world whether it be welding or whatever the case, to have faith in yourself,” Martino said. “If you want to do it, do it. Don’t go by what society says.”

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Steven Sieberg is well aware that the majority of nurses are female, but it didn’t stop him from pursuing a career in nursing. He had worked in industry for about nine years and began to tire of hearing that the factory could be moved if a problem arose.

He came to Terra State because of its close proximity to his Fremont home and it was a good fit financially as he wasn’t sure what his major would be at first. He narrowed quickly to allied health and then nursing. Why?

“At first it was the flexibility of the profession,” he explained. “You don’t notice it when you’re younger but as you get older, you realize that being able to work in a profession that’s in demand, that’s challenging and brings you some level of satisfaction is important.”

Sieberg is positively smitten by the profession.

“I didn’t expect to like nursing as much as I do,” he said. “I’ve really come to truly enjoy it. I love the challenge of it. I knew that you’d help people and that would be good, but I didn’t know how much I would enjoy that either. Like how happy people are that you helped them through a difficult time. That’s very satisfying and more so than I thought it would be.”

As he has worked through his clinical experiences, he has definitely seen a gender gap. He has worked with only two other male nurses. But the attitudes toward him have always been positive.

“Generally it’s very positive amongst the nurses, the people I work with,” he said. “They’re usually excited to have a male nurse on the floor. I get assigned to the heavier patients often. I can’t think of any negative experiences. For the most part, everybody has been fantastic.”

Occasionally, a patient might not be as happy, however.

“I have had female patients not want me to do certain procedures on them because I was a male,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s discrimination but I understand it.”

After graduating this spring, Sieberg plans to apply for a nursing residency and eventually pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He and his wife have talked about doing a traveling nurse program and he would probably work toward a Critical Care Registered Nurse certification.

Sieberg sees no limitations as a male in a female-dominated field. And he’s very appreciative to the faculty at Terra State and those nurses who helped him during his clinical experiences.

“I get excited when I work with people who are good at their jobs,” he said. “That’s why I like this staff. You can tell by talking to them that they were really good at nursing.

“I think this is a really good school to go to for nursing. I think I made a good decision when I decided to come here. This staff is extremely good. The experiences I had in lab were amazing.”

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Tamara “Tami” Myers never thought she’d be in a conversation about non-traditional jobs. Shortly after high school, she attended Terra and earned an Associate of Applied Business in Accounting and Business Management in 1984.

She spent a decade in the banking industry but the pay wasn’t wonderful and so she decided to take a job in accounts payable at a small machine shop. It was often all-hands-on-deck, so she helped with purchasing and shipping and receiving before eventually being used out in the shop.

“I got to the point that I was working on a mill or lathe and I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “But I kind of liked it so I decided I was going to go back to school. So I came back to Terra and got a degree in machining.” She earned her second degree from Terra State in 2004.

The job shop eventually closed when the auto industry experienced a downturn, and Myers has since worked at the former Atlas in Fostoria and Whirlpool Corp. in Clyde. The latter, because of her education, she worked in a leadership position in the machine shop.

Now Myers works in quality engineering at Mitsubishi in Bellevue.

“My machining background has come into play,” she said. “It’s driven me to the quality engineering field. The older I get, running equipment gets harder so it’s kind of been a step there. I also do auditing and color matching, and all of this has stemmed from the machining background.”

Myers is in her third year as an adjunct instructor at Terra State.

“I really like to see the students achieve,” she said. “They’re starting out with just parts and then at the end, we have an engine that runs. I like that I can teach them a skill that they can go out and use.”

Myers sees a gender gap both in her classes and in the workplace.

“There are not a lot of female students and they seem a little gun shy,” she said. “I was probably like that when I took machining. I think I was the only woman in my class. I remember a couple of the instructors saying, ‘You’re not going to be able to do this,’ and I’d say, ‘Yes, I can do it.’”

In industry, there are more women but Myers would like to see even more.

“It’s more accepting now that there are more women out there in the field,” she said. “Men are starting to accept it a little bit more. When I started out, they were like, ‘What are you doing? You should be in banking.’”

Myers thinks the younger generation may be more accepting.

“I think there’s somewhat of a generational thing,” she said. “I think the older generation is kind of set in their ways because they grew up where women stayed home. But I think the younger generation is more accepting.”

Gender inequity can also be a culture issue, Myers said, because not all factories are the same.

As far as being a female instructor, Myers feels she has to earn respect.

“Sometimes it will start out like that, but once we get going, they realize that I know my stuff,” she said. “It takes me showing them that I know my stuff.”

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Veronica Miller didn’t find welding; it kind of found her.

She attended vocational school in Zanesville and chose to go into the electrical program. But it was focused on power line work and when she fell from a pole, she realized she was scared of heights.

So an instructor there suggested she try welding. No one in her family was a welder and she knew nothing about it.

“I just went over and they put a rod in my hand, and it was love at first sight,” she recalled. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Miller has two welding degrees from Terra State and worked at Webster Industries in Tiffin for 12 years. She has taught welding as an adjunct instructor at Owens Community College in Findlay for 16 years and at Terra State for three.

She became interested in teaching at an early age.

“During the summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I wanted to make sure that when I got back to my senior year, I was better than all the guys in the class,” she said. “So I took a summer welding class just to keep up the skills during the summer. When I got there, I realized I knew as much as the instructor so I ended up helping all the other students. So that was my first round of teaching.”

Miller insisted that she’s not competitive, but the summer class was more gender related.

“I’m not really competitive,” she said. “Just that I could be there; I was allowed to be there because I’m a female and you have to prove that all the way. I’m still proving it every time I walk into a classroom.”

She also experienced discrimination in the workplace.

“I’ve been turned down for job promotions before because of being female,” she said. “Not in college but in industry.”

Miller sees a gender gap in her classes.

“I’m usually the only female in the room,” she said. “I love it when I have other female students though, not that I show them favoritism at all but I just make sure that they’re welcome, that they feel comfortable because that’s not the way I was treated.”

The problem may be more perception than reality.

“Physically we’re capable, but I think sometimes maybe females don’t think so,” Miller said.

She’s seen acceptance in the workplace and classroom as well as hesitation.

“There are some people who are really open to it and there are some who treat you like you shouldn’t even be here,” she said.

And some of the differences can be generational.

“The younger generation are more accepting,” she said. “Like when I get a group of young guys in there, they don’t care that I’m female. When you get a group where there’s four or five men in their 50s, you kind of get a few looks. Usually as soon as I start talking, I don’t get any attitude out of them.”

The mother of three boys, Miller has instilled an open mind in them.

She’s raised her boys to believe that girls can do anything so when they do meet whoever they marry, they’ll know if that’s what they’re doing, that’s alright. Their mom is a welder.