7 Women Holding It Down in Unconventional Jobs

Today, women make up 57% of the labor workforce according to the United States Department of Labor. That number continues to grow every year as more and more women take on jobs that are considered "out of the ordinary." 

However, jobs are not meant to be gendered (shoutout to those 11 additional Google career emojis). More people today have dismissed the notion that certain jobs should be assigned based on gender and more women than ever are shattering the gender binary work system. 

From engineering in NASA to woodworking, to being a cannabis business lawyer, here are some of the women that crafting their career by breaking away from the norm and shattering stereotypes.

Denisse Arranda
NASA Engineer

Denisse Arranda is one of NASA’s top engineers, and one of the lead engineers its RaD-X balloon project. However, she isn’t working this project alone - the chief engineer and thermal engineer are both female, making it one of the only NASA projects that's led by a team of women. 

Arranda has not only broken past the barrier of being a female engineer in one of the most prominent aeronautic programs in the nation, but she has also paved the way for Latinas in tech as Colombian immigrant. 

Last year, Broadly’s followed Arranda for a day to see what a day in the life of a NASA engineer is like. See it here.

Ariele Alasko
Woodworker, artist

One look at Ariele Alasko’s Instagram, and you will be mesmerized by the wood grain patterns and amazing intricate woodwork that she has mastered over the years. What started as hobby furniture building and a love of carving spoons after graduating from the Pratt institute in BK and has a BFA in sculpture is now full-scale business.

Woodworking is stereotypically thought of as a man’s job, Alasko has created an impressive and profitable business from her work.

Who said woodwork was a man’s job?

Amanda Conner
Legal Cannabis Business Lawyer

Sure, there’s a lot of women who are lawyers. However, not too many are brave enough to take on the role of a legal marijuana business lawyer. 

Amanda Conner is not afraid of taking on that role. Amanda Connor co-founded the Nevada law firm Connor & Connor with her husband, and specializes in personal injury, business law, and started one of the first law practices that are specialized to the newly legal marijuana business. In an interview with Newsweek, she said that the weed industry is a “legal minefield,” because anyone who gets into the field automatically faces scrutiny from the feds and is labeled a criminal. She’s okay with that - she knows that she has to be willing to live with the taboo being associated with her, even though she’s a lawyer. That also means more business for her - her firm might be the only one in the country that takes marijuana providers as clients and helps them through the process of becoming a business.

Ashley Overholt

When you think of barber shops, you prob picture an entirely male staff.  However, Ashley Overholt, like many other women, is stepping into barber shops and offering her services.

For 10 years now, Overholt has been able to gain the trust of her clients as a barber. Still, the job definitely comes with its sexist moments. In an interview with Refinery 29, she noted a few customers have asked her “how do you know how to straight-razor shave if you’re a girl.” Being in an overly masculine environment has helped her develop a thick skin and has brushed off the comments by saying “girls can do anything these days. We can vote. We can be police officers and lawyers and presidents. We can do a lot these days.”

Yes, we sure can. 

Brina Lee
Engineer, Instagram

As Instagram's first female engineer, it's Brina Lee's job to scroll the social platform. Coding wasn't always her thing and she actually says she hated it at first, but now she understands the major impact that just one or two lines of code can have. 

In 2014 Lee told Elle "It's hard as an entry-level engineer to even build your reputation in a company, so I'm not sure if it's being a woman, but I'm pretty sure it does hinder me a little bit compared to an entry-level male. You have to be more aware as a woman. You have to understand that you may not be listened to, you may not be respected as much as the male engineers."

Jacqueline Sharp
Founder of FORT Goods, Furniture maker

FORT is Jacqueline Sharp's response to not being able to afford furnishing all the rooms in her Mt. Washington home. She found a table saw on Craigslist and began her journey as craftswoman. 

Today, all FORT products are handmade of repurposed, reclaimed materials in the downtown Los Angeles workshop/showroom.  

In 2014 she told the LA Times, "I'm not the greatest craftsman or the best educated business person. My greatest skill is seeing potential."

Apparently in both furniture and herself. 

Kimberly Bryant
Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Code

After working in biotech for over twenty years, Bryant founded Black Girls CODE in 2011. It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach girls of color to become programmers. More than 5,000 girls have participated in the programs.

As one of the first women of color in tech, she broke through that ceiling herself and has shown no signs of slowing down. Bryant has said, "When we generally think of a computer scientist now, it does not look like a woman of color, it does not look of someone that is of Hispanic background. It's very much white male dominant. And that's important for us to show that black girls can code and they can do many other things in terms of a leadership standpoint in this field."

She says this the first step in bridging the digital divide and Black Girls CODE's ultimate goal is to provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040. She's on an unstoppable mission to change the face of technology.