Recruitment & Retention Opinion

Gender Gaps in STEM-Related CTE Programs

By Emily Douglas-McNab — April 28, 2013 1 min read
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When I was a little girl my mom and dad always told me I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard to get there; a scientist, writer, doctor, mathematician, professor, etc. I luckily grew-up in a home where my gender never predicted my future. And as an engineer, my mom made sure I knew that math (and/or science) wasn’t “just for boys.” She would often talk about her high school algebra and calculus teacher, Sherman Blagg, who in the small Appalachian town of Ironton, Ohio, in the late 60’s taught math to everyone in the room, holding high expectations for not just the boys, but for the girls too.

Ironically, the day after she told me about the memorial scholarship set up in his name, a Diversity Executive article entitled, “Women Still Underrepresented in Technical Education Programs” came across my desk. The article discusses research released in mid-March that specifically looks at women and girls enrolled in STEM-specific Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. The report was based on course completion and enrollment in secondary and post-secondary CTE programs data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by states.

The findings show that:

• Less than 25 percent of STEM CTE students are female. • The women in secondary programs comprise only about 26 percent of the classes in information technology; approximately 21 percent of students in STEM; 18 percent of manufacturing; 15 percent in architecture and construction; and 8 percent of students in transportation, distribution, and logistics. • In secondary programs, women make up more than 70 percent of their class in government and public administration; education and training; health sciences; and human services. • Women tend to be concentrated in career preparation programs that result in "low paying" jobs. For example, the median hourly salary for the predominately female occupations are: childcare workers ($9.34); hairdressers, stylists, and cosmetologists ($10.85); and medical assistants ($13.99), while men are typically in the more highly paid roles of automotive body and related repairs ($18.36); plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters ($22.96); and electricians ($23.71).

In response to the findings, Barbara Gault, Vice President and Executive Director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, noted that, “It is important that training for higher-paying occupations includes women and girls, and that girls are introduced to nontraditional careers at a young age.”

What are your reactions to this information? Are you surprised by the findings? Is your organization working to increase the number of females involved in STEM fields?

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