Educators across the nation continue to witness the problem of gender disparity in programs/coursework that focus on construction, engineering, computers, science, technology, and math. Many educators continue to justify the status quo by arguing that girls do not have a natural or instinctive desire to participate in technical careers. The idea that a particular career is “too masculine” or is considered for “boys only,” cannot and should not prevent schools from recruiting girls to these programs. The law is clear that sex imbalance in the employment sector is not an excuse for sex imbalance in schools. Educators have a responsibility to encourage and inform girls about all programs, even those non-traditional to their gender, without thinking they are “steering” girls into certain Career and Technical Education (CTE) academies.
Legal Momentum recently conducted a workshop about gender compliance in work-based learning (WBL) opportunities at the National Academy Foundation’s (NAF) annual professional development conference for educators in Washington, DC. This year’s conference was titled “Roadmap to Impact,” with a core theme of improving work-based learning opportunities for students. WBL is simply internship education. It is a core component of Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools and programs. WBL includes work experience based on a planned program that relates to the students’ coursework. It also teaches students “soft skills,” such as developing positive work attitudes, communication skills, appropriate work attire, etc. The goal of WBL is to prepare young people for successful employment after high school and/or to pursue further technical studies in various careers and professions.
We recognize that work-based learning can be a crucial starting point on the path to sustained training, employment, and ensuring financial security for women. Why WBL? Many recent reports confirm that poverty is a women's issue: female-headed families are more likely to be poor and women are 41% more likely to be poor than men. Women at every level of education (except doctors and lawyers) earn less than men at the level of education below them.
In our roadmap (presentation link) we encourage schools to do the following:
- use materials for recruitment activities that depict a diversity of individuals and occupations;
- provide training to help educators avoid personal gender bias that can affect how they recruit and select students for WBL opportunities;
- recruit host employers that comply with equal opportunity laws.
To learn more about our work on gender equity in education contact Brigitte Watson, Program Coordinator: (212) 925-6635 or firstname.lastname@example.org