International Women's Day 2019
In this day and age, the topic of equality is still largely present. Equal pay, equal treatment, equal rights. We know that things are never perfect but, in Finney County, we are taking pride in one of the things we feel we have gotten right so far and that is our employees.
Specifically, our female employees, although still a minority in our workforce, are making huge impacts. In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019, Finney County is celebrating its women.
In the United States, the average percent of women in the workforce is less than half (roughly 46%). In Finney County, although we are not too far ahead of the national average, about 48% of our workforce is of the female persuasion.
Many of these women are the only one or two within entire divisions of their department! And their jobs are by no means easy or stereotypical.
13 out of 32 jail deputies in the Finney County Sheriff’s Office (FISO) are female. They say getting the respect you deserve is not about gender. It’s how you treat the inmates and the situations.
“In this environment you get to know the inmates and that helps in the situations sometimes. They may help you, and building that rapport is a skill. Regardless of my gender, it’s about how I treat them,” says Becky Nelson (pictured above). After a total of seven years working as a jail deputy, Becky still enjoys her job (on most days, she says jokingly).
Stephanie Camarena says people may be surprised to hear that she gets a lot of respect from the male inmates. “I try different approaches, unlike some of my male counterparts. I like to talk more to de-escalate situations before just acting immediately. I believe that as long as you have a good work ethic, you’ll get the respect you deserve.” Stephanie has been working in the Finney County jail for close to two years.
The U.S. Department of Labor states that 3 out of 10 female veterans continue to serve their country as government workers after their tour of duty. Colleen McMillan (pictured below) came to FISO after serving in the U.S. Air Force for four years. She’s been a patrol deputy for two years and says the transition was difficult. “My education in intelligence brought me up for a different career path so moving into the public sector, on the front lines, in this type of organization brings its own challenges. Some of those being the size of the community and being a woman in law enforcement, being a part of that minority population.”
Colleen is 1 of only 2 female patrol deputies in FISO. Ashley Crockett was a jail deputy for 15 years before transitioning to patrol almost 2 years ago. Her perspective on being a woman in this job: “I think we have the same struggles as our male counterparts, but in different areas. People may respond to me differently than they do a man; it depends on who you’re dealing with. Most of our job is about communication, so the job is for anyone, because anyone can talk.”
Investigators Jennifer Rogers and Vanessa Hahn also know what it feels like to be a part of the minority population in their division of the FISO. They are the only 2 female investigators out of a total of 6.
“I think one of the biggest struggles any woman in law enforcement has to overcome is to go through a stage of proving ourselves to our male colleagues" says Jennifer (pictured above). "Once we can show that we are able to handle ourselves and the stress of the job, we’re treated just like one of the team. In my opinion, it’s not a negative or unfair process, but I think it just came out of being an historically male-dominated field. For me, it was a positive experience, because I was able to prove to myself that I was doing the right job for me, even though sometimes it means, as a mom, sacrificing my time with my children to do this job.”
Vanessa Hahn finds that motherly nature to be a benefit in her career. “Some people just want a mom, and a lot of times, that’s what we might end up being. I find that helps them relate to me because they want someone to talk to.”
The DOL reflects that another career path where women tend to be the minority is in the ‘order’ of law and order. In the U.S., only 36% of attorneys are women. Well, in the Finney County Attorney’s Office, 5 out of 9 attorneys are female, including the department’s director and elected official, County Attorney, Susan Richmeier.
In fact, 9 out of 17 of our department directors are women. That includes the 4 out of 5 department elected officials in Finney County who are female, our County Attorney, Clerk, Treasurer, and Register of Deeds.
All of this cannot go without saying how grateful we are for all of the professional women in Finney County who support their leaders and coworkers in every department and position.
Colleen Drees (pictured below, center), Director of the Finney County Health Department, manages a team of 27 women and one man.
“As a young, professional mother, I’m very thankful to work for Finney County and have a supportive staff. I have the flexibility to make both family choices and career choices that are important to me. I’m proud of the success I’ve had in my career, but I can still put my family first." Colleen was able to continue nursing her two young children while directing the department and obtaining her Master’s Degree!
Colleen admits that an office full of women can be a challenge in itself. She came from being the only female on an all-male management team in the restaurant industry. But overcoming these challenges isn't about gender, it's knowing how to deal with personalities, regardless of your gender.
"Having an office full of that many women, personalities, opinions, etc. is 100% difficult to manage, but with at least one man in the office, it actually helps to balance the scales tremendously. He's very good at being politically correct, and being a listener."
So to all the women in Finney County, we celebrate you. We're not just talking to our employees, we're talking to the women who lead someone, support someone, listen to someone, or talk to someone; those who hold a professional career; those who stay at home with your kids; to the daughters, the mothers, the grandmothers, and sisters - we celebrate you.
Thank you to all the women in Finney County who make our community go ‘round.
Happy International Women's Day. Celebrate the women in your life today.