Gender Equity in Career and Technical Education
Occupational segregation begins long before young women start applying for their first jobs. Despite the great opportunities afforded by vocational high schools around the country, young women comprise only a small percentage of students learning skilled trades. Some teachers and vocational high schools perpetuate this imbalance by marketing some career tracks to male students, while channeling women to cosmetology and child care, which pay less. Some schools focused on construction and similar trades struggle to maintain a supportive environment for the minority of young women students attending.
Legal Momentum's Pipeline Project takes aim at just this problem. Legal Momentum works to increase girls’ enrollment in high schools that prepare them for the skilled trades with the goal of overcoming the intense sex segregation that has long been the norm in these schools. From a pilot project in the schools of New York City, Legal Momentum is working to build a best practices model for career and technical education around the nation.
Legal Momentum’s Pipeline Project seeks to develop and test strategies aimed at increasing the number of middle school and high school aged girls in non-traditional (male-dominated) CTE programs, which lead to occupations with higher wages, better benefits, and greater opportunities for professional growth.
Our ultimate goal is to create a sustainable technical assistance and implementation model based on our work in New York City CTE schools that can be replicated nationally. In doing so, we seek to forge systemic changes in education institutions that help to end the long history of gender segregation in these schools and career fields, while increasing the earnings potential and future economic security of low-income women.
The program targets two main impediments to women’s equality in the workforce, occupational choice and bias in career and technical high schools, with the aim of creating a national best practices model for CTE schools around the nation.
Women continue to hold jobs with lower salaries and fewer benefits. They also continue to face barriers to employment in job sectors from which they have long been excluded. Training programs for both adults and students too often reinforce these trends, failing to provide women and girls with competitive skills and a path into non-traditional, well-compensated jobs. Women at every level of education earn 20% to 25% less than men at the same education level and slightly less than the men at the education level below them. Women in this country are 35% more likely to be poor than men, and the poverty rate of female-headed households is more than twice the rate for solo father families. Much of this wage differential can be linked to gender segregation in the workforce. The top twenty women-dominated fields of employment pay 20-30% less than non-traditional jobs.
Bias in Career and Technical High Schools
There have been numerous reports of disparities between the sexes in Career and Technical Education (CTE) both in New York City and nationally. In 2000, the New York City Board of Education Task Force on Sex Equity released a scathing report, which found both dramatic under-enrollment of girls in career and technical education high schools and gender segregation in CTE tracks. A 2008 Report by the New York City Public Advocate’s office found that five of the six NYC CTE schools with the most severe imbalance (ranging from 5% to 20% female enrollment) specialize in high wage occupations such as aviation, construction and transit technology. The sixth school, with a 9% male enrollment, was in the fashion industry.
Gender segregation in career and technical education programs is not only a New York City problem, but a national one. A 2002 study that the National Women’s Law Center conducted showed that nationally, girls make up 87% of students in child care courses, 96% of those in cosmetology, and 86% of those in training courses to become health assistants. By comparison, boys comprise 94% of students enrolled in plumbing and electrical programs, 93% of those in welding and carpentry courses, and 92% of those in automotive technology.
The Pipeline Project pilot program is designed to create effective recruitment and retention strategies for girls; provide technical assistance on compliance with the gender equity requirements of Title IX and the Carl Perkins Act ; and develop systemic approaches to gender segregation in CTE schools and career training tracks.