More occupations seeing increased gender diversity in Washington County

Photo by Michael Kelly Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kim Smith helps maintenance department worker Doug Weber set up a display for the department at the Washington County fairgrounds. Smith’s work includes getting children touch-print IDs at public events such as the fair, but she also is inmate transport coordinator and a member of the department’s hostage negotiating team.

MARIETTA – Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks remembers clearly the number of women working in the office’s criminal division when he took office in 2005.

“Zero,” he said.

The division between what traditionally have been men’s jobs and women’s jobs is increasingly less rigid in the U.S. and Washington County has moved along with the rest of the nation.

The department now has six female deputies and 11 corrections officers, out of a total criminal division staff of just more than 50. His office is already past the national norm for employing women in law enforcement, but Mincks is working to recruit more.

“There are so many things the ladies can do as well as any man,” he said. “And the men trust them.”

Sgt. Kim Smith might be the first person encountered by a visitor to the sheriff’s office on the ground floor of the Putnam Street courthouse. Smith, who often staffs the entry door, is in charge of courthouse security and transport of inmates to their various destinations. She doesn’t feel, she said, like a groundbreaker or someone in a minority.

While in high school in Newport News, Va., she took a college placement course in justice that included the chance to ride along with the local police department. She discovered her calling.

“It was interesting, fun, exciting,” she said. “I think I was just born with this drive.”

She married and moved to Marietta at 18, began raising a family and pursued her career in law enforcement, working security (“Boring,” she said) and as a prison guard at the Noble Correctional Institution in Caldwell.

She started with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 after going through the academy. After working as a patrol deputy she became a sergeant in 2013, moving to more desk and administrative work.

“My favorite part of this job is dealing with people,” she said. “Sometimes they just need someone to talk to.”

Chief Deputy Mark Warden, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, said he welcomes the presence of female law enforcement officers.

“I’ve worked with females all through my career, starting in the jail, and we had female corrections officers and clerks,” he said. “For me, personally, it’s not a big change.”

Warden said he doesn’t think his male colleagues behave differently around their female co-workers.

“It’s an awesome tool for the agency,” he said. “In some types of crimes and victims, sometimes the victim relates better to a woman, sometimes the perpetrator does. The sheriff and I are very committed to this.”

On a recent day she staffed a booth at the Waterford Community Fair promoting children’s ID cards. Other days might find her serving or executing writs, dealing with concealed carry permits, checking sex offender registrations or arranging transportation of people arrested outside the county on warrants.

She’s also a member of the hostage negotiation team.

As for being a woman in a male-dominated profession, Smith said, “For me, it has not been a challenge at all. You work hard, you enjoy the job.”

Her daughter, a college junior, has expressed a desire to go into law enforcement.

“If it’s her calling, I’m OK with it,” Smith said. “I do think that having females in law enforcement is important.”

So does the sheriff.

When a patient encounters a nurse, nine times out of 10 that nurse will be a woman. That holds true across the U.S., throughout Ohio and in Washington County. But nursing is attracting men – nationally, the ratio of men to women in nursing tilted slightly in favor of men in 2016 — because, unlike most other female–dominated occupations, nursing pays well and is in high demand.

“It’s a great field for anyone, and I think men are becoming less intimidated about going into it,” said Zach Cronin, a nurse at Marietta Memorial Hospital and graduate of the program at Washington State Community College.

Despite the attractions of nursing, he said, his class at WSCC was made up of 30 women and only four men.

The gender imbalance was no deterrent for him.

“I always had a passion for science, but my original goal did not include nursing,” the 26-year-old said. “But we had a family member admitted to the hospital and after I saw the difference the nurse made, I made that career choice.”

Mike Nichols, another alumnus of the WSCC program and a resident of Summerfield, started his health career as an EMS and then took the two-year Associate Degree in Nursing. It was change in direction.

“It is different,” he said. “I started out at a fire department with 48 guys and moved to a hospital with 600 women.”

He spent some time in the emergency room before hiring on with the state as a nurse at the Noble Correctional Institution. Now 34 and a registered nurse, Nichols sees a broad array of career possibilities, including that of a nurse practitioner.

Brandon Farler, 22, got his bachelors degree in nursing from Ohio University after receiving a two-year degree from WSCC. Although he occasionally struggles with people who have stereotypes about nurses — that they should be women — he believes he’s in a great profession.

“Honestly, I love this career, I like people, and I love the work,” he said.

Men get used for their physical stature, Farler said, noting that strength is welcomed in the ICU environment where he works because the job frequently involves moving inert patients, and men also can add a sense of safety and reassurance for their female colleagues.

Farler said his next career move will be another degree, this time for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a three-year course study.

The average pay for a CRNA is about $140,000 a year, according to

The career flexibility and demand, along with the satisfaction of serving others, accounts for much of the appeal of the profession.

“I worked with an older guy who’d been laid off the coal mines,” Nichols said. “He chose nursing because every time he looked in the paper, that’s what he saw ads for. In nursing, you can always get a job.”


Quick Facts

* Nearly all the health technologists and technicians in Washington County are women — according to the 2015 five-year American Community Survey of the Census Bureau, women account for 99 percent of the more than 600 workers in that field, 22 percentage points higher than the U.S. average.

* The proportion of women in computer and mathematical occupations in Washington County is two-thirds higher than the national average.

* An unusually high proportion of community and social services jobs are held by men in Washington County, 20 percentage points above the U.S. average.

* More than 90 percent of local nurses and elementary school teachers are women.

* Nationally, about 13 percent of law enforcement officers are women. In 1970, the national average was 2 percent.

Source: 2015 5-year American Community Survey,

Department of Justice white paper, 2013, Ohio Board of Nursing data, 2016