Re: Your dream research on educational equity...

Barbara J Tavares (
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 12:12:25 -1000

On Wed, 1 Jul 1998, Elizabeth Homer wrote:

> My first choice for more research would be in the area of vocational
> education, especially trade and industry programs, but across the
> board as well. Above all else, I would like to see more young women
> making better career choices in voc tech career areas (so that they
> can be economically self sufficient if necessary) and young men who
> are more accepting and welcoming of women into these kinds of jobs
> (whether in the classroom setting or workplace.)

I loved all your questions, and having been in vocational equity for the
last 14 years, these are topics near and dear to may heart. Incidentally,
most earnings tables show that at all levels of educational attainment,
people with occupational specific education tend to do better salary wise
than general studies graduates.

But for me, your premise fits more into race and class discrimination than
gender. The feminist community in general seems to be slow in crossing
over from liberal arts into the area of technical occupations. Maybe it
is the old bias that working with one's hands in somehow less important
than working with the mind, although I can think of no technical
occupation that doesn't have very rigorous academic requirements,
especially in math. Women's Studies Departments have been vigilant about
law, medical, and engineering schools, but have given little attention to
females accessing high paying technical occupations. I suspect (personal
feeling here, not research based) that's because membership in such groups
tends to come from the white middle class that may see baccalaureate and
professional degrees as more upwardly mobile (upward mobility being a
middle class priority).

These attitudes ignore the fact that that's where the jobs are and that's
where the money is. It is amazing how many new Ph.D.s in ancient history
write into the Chronicle of Higher Education bemoaning the fact that they
can't find a job in their field. (See earlier comment about occupational
specific education.) What MSW makes even close to what a
computer repairer does? Somehow being a lawyer is seen as "better" than
being an aircraft mechanic, even though the average income of the later is
greater than the former. And who among us wants "second best" going into
aircraft mechanics? Probably not anyone who flies.

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