Welcome to Rosie the Riveter High

A California charter school named after the poster girl for working women trains girls to succeed in the trades

Published December 4, 2009 7:05PM (EST)

"Women in nontraditional jobs earn 20% to 40% more than women in what are considered 'traditional' women's jobs," Lynn Shaw, president of the board of  Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles, told the L.A. Times in an interview. "That's $1 million over a lifetime." And that's why she and her colleagues worked to found Rosie the Riveter High School in Long Beach, California, with the goal of educating girls to participate in typically male-dominated trades.

Usually, when I write about teenaged girls or women in non-traditional occupations here, let alone both, I'm despairing for the future -- but this is a pure feel-good story. Shaw, who worked as a miner, steelworker and longshoreman before earning a doctorate in electrical engineering, "got tired of being the only woman on the job" and set about fixing that. Now, the two-year-old charter school she helped create trains about 50 students -- boys and girls -- "for careers as welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians," as well as for college and other professions. One student interviewed says he wants to be a writer and another says she's planning to become a pediatrician, but senior Alaina Servin, who's given up on being a teacher in favor of working at an oil refinery, demonstrates that Rosie the Riveter High is fulfilling its purpose: helping girls see vocational opportunities they might not have considered and think, "We can do it!"

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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