Sophomore girls from six local high schools — Wawasee, Fairfield, Tippecanoe Valley, Warsaw, West Noble and Whitko — attended the 11th annual Nontraditional Employment for Women opportunities workshop Thursday at Quaker Haven near Dewart Lake. The workshop gives students often still undecided on career choices opportunities to consider careers traditionally dominated by males.
More than 30 women representing several fields including meteorology, welding, electrician, certified public accountant, state police trooper, minister, school administrator, truck driver and many more shared their stories with students during rotating sessions. Some of the women also allowed students to try hands-on activities.
Dottie Davis, director of security for Fort Wayne Community Schools, was the guest speaker at the workshop for the third time. Prior to becoming security director, Davis retired in June as a deputy police chief for the Fort Wayne Police Department.
She shared how she became a police officer, which at the time was even more male dominated, and also talked about her struggles with domestic violence issues. She noted she grew up in a home with traditional expectations for women becoming nurses, waitresses, teachers or full-time mothers.
Davis did all of the inside chores and her brothers took care of the outside chores. “I was a tomboy and I really wanted to be outdoors doing those chores,” she said.
In her junior year of high school, she participated in an early release work program and worked in a clothing store at a shopping mall. By the age of 16, she was an assistant manager at the store. Later she met someone who talked to her about becoming a police dispatcher.
She chose to pursue the opportunity and then in 1980, the Fort Wayne Police Department began heavily recruiting females to become officers. Davis applied and was accepted into the police academy in 1981. She estimated two-thirds of her career as a patrol officer was spent working in the inner city of Fort Wayne in high crime areas.
But those first few years as an officer became extremely difficult as she had to deal with a husband who physically abused her. It was particularly difficult, she noted, because as a police officer she had responded to many domestic violence calls herself.
A female police sergeant warned Davis she could possibly lose her career if she didn’t seek counseling or help. Davis did get help, survived the domestic violence and eventually left her husband. She has since remarried.
Davis warned the students, “Don’t be fooled by a man’s money, his education, his title or any initials after his name.” She noted abusers come from all walks of life and she has arrested attorneys, doctors and others for domestic abuse.
Before retiring from the police department in June, Davis had risen to third in command.
Also during the workshop, a moment of silence was observed in honor of the late Mary Ellen Rudisel-Jordan, an architect who died in July as the result of an automobile accident. She had participated in the first 10 years of the workshop.
The workshop was cosponsored by the Warsaw Area Career Center and the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative.