TODAY   |  July 04, 2012

More women taking on traditional male jobs

With the economy making a rebound, more women are making strides in male-dominated careers. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports and TODAY’s Natalie Morales talks with career expert Nicole Williams about the increased number of women in transportation, maintenance and construction positions.

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>>> on "today's" working woman, breaking down barriers. these days when you call a plumber or electrician, there's a greater chance a woman will be making the house call . as the economy rebounds opportunities for women in nontraditional fields will only grow. here is nbc's kevin tibbles.

>> reporter: talk about a jill of all trades. after her first career laying tile, she became a mr. appliance woman and was recently voted technician of the year. what can mrs. mr. appliance fix?

>> refrigerators, washer, dryers, trash compacters, garbage disposal. any major appliance you put in your home.

>> reporter: trina left a job in finance 15 years ago to do something a little more hands on with a lot more elbow grease .

>> i was always curious as a kid and took things apart and put them bach together.

>> reporter: these days many like trina are pursuing jobs traditionally thought to be for men.

>> you could tear this apart and put it back together.

>> i could if i needed to.

>> reporter: now with women making up to 60% of the workforce, it's no surprise more of them are out there getting their hands dirty.

>> women are called upon to leave their homes and take jobs.

>> reporter: it wasn't that long ago during the second world war that rosie the riveter inspired many to enter the trades. today 10 million making their mark in trades, construction, maintenance. many receive their training here, chicago women in trades.

>> i like the hands on. i can't wait to see the end results, so i can be like wow.

>> experts say with the economy on the rebound, opportunities for women in the trades will only grow for women like tana and trina , getting dirty is all in a day's work.

>> it's not graceful. it's not a female's field. i think we need to change that.

>> reporter: as women break through the glass ceiling , they are also breaking barriers in a traditional man's world. one broken car or refrigerator at a time. for today, kevin tibbles, nbc news, evanston, illinois.

>> a founder of a website supporting young women in their careers. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> good to have you here. women entering construction, repair work, technology. is this due to the recession or is this due to the fact there really is a need for a change in the stereotype?

>> i think it's a bit of both. you're definitely seeing more women opening up to the possibility of doing work that's traditionally being thought of as men's work. i do think it's the economy as well in terms of we're all vying for whatever opportunity is out there. one of the things we're seeing is women are quite differentiated in male industries because it's just sort of a delight to see a woman showing up at your door. there's a surprise factor in that, so you really get to stand out in a crowd as a woman working in a job traditionally in a male industry.

>> there's certain advantages women have in these typically male dominated fields. we have different problem solving skills, more patient, more able to relate to women themselves in whatever that role is. how much when you're trying to break into that field, though, are there still barriers for women who want to pursue careers.

>> there is typical stereotypes and resistance. i think what i love about what you said is, women should bring the fact that they are a woman to male industries. we're not necessarily asking women to be just like men. these problem solving abilities, ability to empathize and communicate can work to your advantage in these industries. it's not all about being a man's man. it's the thinking and all that goes into being a great talent in this particular industry.

>> on the flip side , seeing things happening with men, men typically more female stur i don't type roles. nursing, teaching. is that something we'll see more of and, again, is it related to the economy?

>> it's related to both. it's a breakdown of stereotypes. absolutely, when the economy is tight like this, looking for every opportunity. as far as trades are concerned, i think there is, you know a need for people, men and women to take on these kinds of trades and businesses. there's enormous opportunity there.

>> how do you counsel as you do in your job, counsel people to pursue and explore opportunities they may think is outside the box for them.

>> i really love, find a mentor. find someone working within this industry and strike up a conversation. learn about what it is to get into this industry. find a community of women or men, you know, who are doing this untraditional work. find out how they succeeded.

>> goes without saying you've got to be passionate about it no matter what it is.

>> at the end of the day it's that passion and perseverance that makes it work.

>> nicole williams, thanks so much. i love that.