Evolution of women's work in Ottawa County

In Ottawa County in the 1960's, when women of the baby boomer era were in school and deciding what they wanted to be when they grew up, the most common career path was housewife or farm wife. If a woman wanted to or needed to work outside the home, perhaps until she married and started a family, or if she ended up as an "old maid", jobs as secretary or maid or waitress or beautician or sales clerk were options. If she did well in school, saved enough of her babysitting money and if her parents were forward-thinking and financially able to provide for college, she might consider becoming a teacher or nurse. Women were becoming more common as bank tellers and there were a few women in real estate, including Ann Bolte, matriarch of Bolte Real Estate. Once a woman settled into a job, she tended to stay in that job for life. Women seldom referred to a job as a career.

The present

In Ottawa county Ohio in 2013, the classic careers for women remain strong. In addition to working in those careers, women are often managers and owners of child care facilities, beauty salons, restaurants and retail establishments. Women are now in the majority as bank tellers and several are bank branch managers. They are in the majority of real estate agents and several are real estate office managers. Women are attorneys, physicians, insurance agency owners, school administrators, fishing guides, manufacturing supervisors and combat soldiers. 

Many women in business like the stability of a regular schedule that allows time for family and other pursuits. Others have found that starting their own business brings them satisfaction.

Lissa Gillman of Port Clinton, age 11, launched her first business this winter. Lissa and her siblings found that they could make a variety of all-natural lip balms from the beeswax that is a by-product of her family’s Lockwood Honey business. They began making, marketing and selling Sweet ‘Stache Lip Balm on facebook and to family and friends. 

Missy Freeze of Oak Harbor worked at Arm and Hammer as a forklift operator for over 20 years. When the opportunity presented itself, she took the leap to open The Primitive Cupboard in Oak Harbor. 

Several local businesswomen have been inspired to open their own businesses to follow their passion, and others because they could not find work, or could not find meaningful or satisfying work. 

Locally, support for women in business is available from the Peninsula, Oak Harbor, and Port Clinton Chambers of Commerce and from the Port Clinton Area Business and Professional Women. Information is available at their respective websites or on facebook. 

The challenges

Opportunities exist for this generation of women to continue to move toward true equality. “Full time working women are paid about 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. This figure hasn’t budged in the last 10 years,” according to Megan Morrison of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

This summer Tech Trek, a week-long camp for eighth-grade girls to explore careers in the STEM fields--science, technology, engineering and math, is being held at Bowling Green State University. Breaking the barriers caused by the segregation of traditional gender roles in the work force can help correct one factor behind the pay gap. More information is available at www. or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

Less than 25 % of Ohio businesses are female-owned (US Census data), and thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. From the review of Sheryl Sanderg’s just-released book, “Lean In”: 

“Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers common-sense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of ‘having it all.’  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. “Lean In” is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.”

The future

The future promises to be bright, with women networking and helping other women and men supporting and encouraging their spouses and daughters. The same generation of baby boomers that have been influenced by Donna Reed, Gloria Steinem and Sheryl Sandberg have an opportunity to set an example on how to evolve through transitions and to honor whatever choices their peers, their daughters and their granddaughters make.

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