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Highway Patrol Looks to Close Gender Gap

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RALEIGH — Women are making great strides in the business world, government and sports. That success has not extended to the ranks of theNorth Carolina Highway Patrol. Now, troopers are on patrol to balance the gender gap.

Of 1,417 state troopers, only 24 are women.

"Nobody talked me into it or convinced me to do it or anything," says Trooper Beth Horton. "I remember when I was middle age, maybe middle school or junior high, I saw my very first female Highway Patrolman and I knew at that point, you know, 'if she can do it, you know, I can do it too.'"

There are a lot of reasons why Horton is one of only two dozen female state troopers.

One reason is Patrol School. Every trooper has to pass 28 weeks of tough training.

The boot camp-like experience cuts out nearly half of both female and male recruits.

Horton says everyone should have to pass the same test.

"I don't think they should make it any different for anybody, because you can't. It's tough out here, people are mean," she says.

The Highway Patrol is actively looking to get more females in the ranks by recruiting at colleges, gyms, and even hair salons.

Aside from working alone in a dangerous environment, relatively low pay also keeps many women out of the trooper ranks.

"I don't think about it being a gender issue," says Horton. "I just think it's something that you've got to want to do, and you've got to want it in your heart."

There is a lot of competition. The Highway Patrol just hopes more women find it in their hearts to become troopers.

Eleven women have applied for the Patrol Basic School class that starts next month.