Women’s event urges smart career choices

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Female students from West Lincoln, Loyd Star and Enterpriseattendance centers were encouraged by WLBT chief meteorologistBarbie Bassett and local veterinarian Kelly Wallace Tuesday to makesmart career choices and not let gender be a determining factor inthose decisions.

“It wasn’t that I intentionally set out to get a job in a careerfield traditionally dominated by men, but it was a job I knew Iwould enjoy,” Bassett told more than 100 students gathered in JackCase Gymnasium.

Bassett and Wallace were the key speakers of the “Knowledge isPower” conference to encourage female students to look beyondgender when considering careers.

“We’re trying to encourage girls to get more interested in jobsthey may not normally consider because it’s traditionally a man’sworld,” said Linda Bowen, a West Lincoln teacher who helpedorganize the conference.

The conference was open to female students at the three schoolsin grades 7-9 and West Lincoln seniors.

Bassett said it is not uncommon for females enteringmale-dominated career fields to experience some criticism. However,persistence and a strong work ethic are usually all that isnecessary to quiet the critics.

She recommended the female students concentrate more on locatinga career field they would enjoy than worrying about whether thefield would accept them. Once that is accomplished, the studentsshould set realistic goals in order to meet the requirements of thefield.

“You should be the person you want to be,” Bassett said. “Thislife is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. All of the successfulwomen you know have fallen down before. It’s not how many times youfall down, but how well you pick yourself back up.”

Wallace, the 1998 West Lincoln Attendance Center valedictorian,recently returned to the Lincoln County area. She practices at theAnimal Health Center and has four years of experience as aveterinarian.

“I think young women sometimes struggle with decisions and thisis a good opportunity for them to see other options that may beavailable to them,” she said.

Once a heavily male-dominated career field, the animal medicalfield has really seen a surge in female career opportunities,Wallace said. Her graduating class in 2005 was approximately 60percent female.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, therewere 85,977 veterinarians in 2008 with 42,690 of those beingfemale.

Men continue to dominate in most of the subcategories ofveterinary medicine, but women have taken the lead amongveterinarians treating pets, Wallace said. More than 54 percent ofsmall domesticated animal veterinarians are female.

West Lincoln senior Meagan Neal said she learned she needed toset better goals and look more closely at setting goals outside ofan academic setting.