Last June I again was given the pleasure to speak to the young women attending Girls State. During the question-and-answer time, I was asked what I could do as a man to help women establish themselves in traditionally male occupations. “Great question,” I said. My answer is that I think men in leadership positions should identify these occupations and identify what stands in the way and how to remove those barriers.

I decided my first effort would be to look at the Maine Warden Service. After all, there are only five female wardens in a force of 124. On the surface one would quickly conclude that there is a problem. The warden service must be a good old boys club.

Well, nothing could be further than the truth.

Let’s start with the application processes. Applicants for positions in law enforcement, specifically for the Maine State Police, local police, marine patrol and the warden service, are currently down. Last year there were 80 applicants, which included nine women. After the initial screening was completed, 30 eligible candidates were invited to an oral board interview; four of them women. After an extensive hiring process was completed, including background investigations, comprehensive interviews and polygraph/psychological exams, five people were offered game warden positions; two were women.

Woman applicants drop even further as one applies for the warden service. Why? There are a couple of reasons.

First, the ladies applying must have a love for the outdoors. They need to hunt and fish. They need to be prepared to spend long hours alone protecting our wildlife, from the moose to the endangered moth. Many women possess this love, but for a while the number was dwindling. Although in recent years there may have been an uptick for women in outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, the desire to be in the field for the long hours necessary to do the job is not quite there yet.

I thought maybe the physical requirements were unattainable by women, but I found this to be untrue. In fact, I found in many cases the women working to be wardens outperform the men.

The work shifts for the warden service is four days on and two days off. Wardens are required to be on call 24 hours per day when on duty. This makes it very difficult for family life.

My first response was, “Well, change the shift requirement to something like the state police.” But I found if this was done, the number of wardens would have to grow significantly, with costs skyrocketing.

Easily the warden service could say, “It is what it is.” But they have not. They are actively trying to recruit women. In fact, game wardens attend dozens of school career fairs yearly, including those for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges. The warden service has a full-time outreach recruiter and media specialist who is able to focus on those areas and conduct interviews throughout the year to help identify and provide advice for women interested in a career as a game warden.

I did take the time to interview women presently, or previously, in the warden service. They clearly love the work. One left for family reasons. The others are ready to make the service a lifelong career. All made it very clear to me the warden service is a welcome place for women to work and that their counterparts treat them as equals and respect them.

So ladies, if you love the outdoors and want a career in law enforcement, specifically with the warden service, contact Corporal John MacDonald at [email protected] You can also visit mainegamewarden.com and check out their “Career Opportunity” page with helpful information, a recruitment video and a link to contact MacDonald directly. He will help you start on a rewarding career and adventure as a Maine game warden.

Sen. Thomas B. Saviello, a Republican, represents Senate District 17, which includes all municipalities and unorganized territories in Franklin County, as well as Belgrade, Fayette, Mount Vernon and Vienna in Kennebec County.