Nichole Bradford, Regional PSM Programs Manager based at our Fite Road plant in Memphis, gave a keynote speech at a recent event organized by Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW), the largest three-service municipal utility in the US, to promote non-traditional careers for women. We talked to Nichole about the rewarding experience of participating in this inspired event.
First, can you tell us what is meant by ‘non-traditional careers for women’?
NB: The US Department of Labor defines a non-traditional occupation for women as one in which women comprise 25% or less of total employment. Although the number of women is progressively growing in non-traditional occupations, they are still under-represented, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as general trades, construction and manufacturing. This event was designed to educate women about non-traditional career opportunities in general, promote non-traditional careers at MLGW, and empower women to seek out these options.
Why did you choose “Wonder Woman” as your theme?
NB: The event was primarily targeted to under-represented minority women who may have faced social or economic challenges. I wanted to encourage them to believe they could enter a non-traditional career and be successful, so I choose a theme that would be familiar and approachable yet strong and inspirational. For me, the comic book superhero Wonder Woman embodies all of those things and more. So, to answer the question “Why you?”, I focused on three ideas: first, in “You are a Wonder”, I introduced research-based facts on the many positive differences of the female gender, including relative IQ equality, greater endurance, and higher resilience; second, in “You are a Woman”, I covered historic observations of women’s abilities in non-traditional roles from work on the farm to jobs in manufacturing during WWII; I shared studies on the advantages of women in the workplace and the case for investing in women for business, including improved operational and financial performance and enhanced company competitiveness and reputation; and finally, I talked about the need for women and people of color in non-traditional roles to respond to economic growth and the demand for technical talent due to changing demographics.
And you put it all together using the concept of “You are a Wonder Woman”?
NB: As a native Memphian and African-American woman working in a non-traditional career, I concluded with my own personal story of overcoming challenges and obstacles. I wanted the women present to believe that if I could do it, they too could succeed. I encouraged each “Wonder Woman” to be the change they want to see in their own lives or that of their sisters, daughters, and friends.
How did the 100-strong audience of mainly African-American women respond?
NB: It was heart-warming to have several women approach me afterwards with words of thanks and appreciation for addressing some of their specific feelings and concerns and for not being afraid to acknowledge my faith in a public forum where that can sometimes be frowned upon.
How was the whole experience of presenting?
NB: My Christian faith guides my life and I believe that God allowed me to join with the women present for a purpose. Not only was I there to provide words of motivation and encouragement, but I was also there to receive strength and inspiration for my own journey. I’m passionate about helping people and always want to help serve others. I was truly honored and blessed by the experience! It was an excellent opportunity for women who are actively working in non-traditional careers to come together in support and empowerment of other women in the hope of increasing our numbers.