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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Katherine L. Wesley


The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupation Act (WANTO Act) of 1992 highlighted an urgent matter facing the American workforce that persists today. The urgent matter in 2012 involves the precarious effect of demographics on the American labor market, placing women at the crux of engaging opportunity or maintaining status quo.

Women must be empowered and encouraged to seek employment opportunities they have never considered, e.g. male-dominated, nontraditional occupations, for the U.S. to keep pace with labor market needs. The need amplifies the myriad of issues for women in male-dominated, nontraditional occupations.

Among the barriers confronting women is the persistence of substantial wage differences when women and men do exactly the same jobs (Crawford, 2012) as well as the continued clustering of women at the bottom of the hierarchy in nontraditional occupations.

The purpose of this study was to understand how mentorship contributed to long-term success in nontraditional career paths of women at Lincoln Industries in Lincoln, Nebraska. The site was chosen for its national recognition and five-time honor as “one of the best places to work in America” (Lincoln Journal Star, 2011, para. 4).

A qualitative case study was designed to examine the meaning of long-term employment for women in a nontraditional occupation and how they interpreted their experiences. Data was collected through interviews and a focus group.

The findings augment existing knowledge concerning best practices for industries that seek to maintain the employment of women in nontraditional occupations and address significant issues facing the U.S. labor market. The findings will inform educators of salient factors helpful in the advancement of women, personally and professionally, in the pursuit of nontraditional occupations. Finally, the findings of the study will assist women as they navigate the issues that intersect gender and achievement.

Advisor: Marilyn Grady