[EDEQUITY Discussion]Opening Statement for Career Education

From: owner-edequity@phoenix.edc.org
Date: Mon Aug 07 2000 - 10:35:20 EDT

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Opening Statement for Career Education Discussion:

     Career education has proven to be a particularly difficult area for
the educational equity movement. Vocational education programs were never
adequately integrated, with many of the high-wage skilled trade programs
remaining almost exclusively male. In recent years, career-oriented
education programs have expanded far past the traditional vocational shops,
giving new importance to this problem. Schools have implemented "School
Work" systems to integrate academic learning with work-based learning.
Large urban schools have developed "career academies" that create
occupationally focused small school environments to encourage student
motivation and many school systems have encouraged schools to implement
career "pathways" that allow high school students to focus their studies on
a particular occupational track. And many school districts and
post-secondary institutions are revising their traditional vocational
programs to include hi-tech classes that allow students to study fields
like computer circuitry and telecommunications. These exciting new
opportunities provide an opportunity for female students to gain entry
into high-wage fields.

     Yet career education programs of all types continue to be highly sex
segregated, with women and girls concentrated in programs leading to
traditionally female occupations, such as health care, child care,
cosmetology, and administrative jobs. Men and boys represent a
disproportionate number of those training for the newly emerging, high-wage
technology jobs. The challenge for education equity advocates is to ensure
that all students feel comfortable in all programs, particularly those
dominated by the opposite sex. Career counseling and recruiting tools,
including interest/aptitude assessments, career fairs, and printed
materials, may perpetuate outmoded stereotypes that discourage female
students from enrolling in traditionally male or technical programs.
Students who do engage in career education programs dominated by the
opposite sex often encounter sexual harassment, differential treatment from
both teachers and fellow students, and other barriers to equal opportunity
in the classroom.

     I am looking forward to our discussion on this topic. I am
particularly interested in hearing your thoughts on: what barriers exist to
female student's achievement in career education programs; what role career
counseling plays in the current sex segregation; what role sexual
plays; and how we can help young women and girls succeed in technical and
non-traditional programs.

Kathleen Keller
Educational Opportunities Fellow
National Women's Law Center

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