Re: Voc Ed, Feminists, Women's Studies

Elizabeth Homer (
Wed, 08 Jul 1998 21:34:50 -0500

Barbara and all,
I have my own theories about voc ed and feminists' duty. Here's
Barbara's comments:

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.

I don't think it's is a feminist problem. People in general
(teachers, counselors, parents, business people, legislators) don't
know much about voc ed unless they took classes in it. There are even
people in voc ed related occupations that don't know much about voc ed
because they didn't take that route to their jobs. I think it is very
hard to know about vocational education without really studying it. It
is very complex, kind of like learning a foreign language if you've
had no prior exposure to it. My curiosity was high in this area of
finding out how voc ed impacts women economically and I found it
necessary to get a degree in occupational education administration in
order to really understand it. Then I had to do a lot of thinking and
analyzing on my own to see how it really worked, and largely doesn't
work, for women.

I think things will go as they have gone in athletics, e.g., when
there were few women in athletics it was said that women were biased
against being involved in athletic activities. If we can get our foot
in the door in Trade and Industry, the numbers will grow. (I would
target electronics.) Feminists may have thought it would be harder to
win equity in athletics than Trade and Industry, but the resistance on
the part of males is very strong in T & I - because it is resistance to
economic competition. With a strong economy, when the job market is
not so tight, this is an excellent time for breakthroughs for women and
minorities to enter voc tech occupations. We do need to learn more
about the opportunities for women and minorities in apprenticeships,
tech prep, associate degrees at Community Colleges, etc.

Barbara: 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).

My View: people study what they relate to, I wouldn't always
attribute it to prejudice. There are women in Voc Ed, but they follow
the occupational stereotyping patterns that enrollments do. These are
the women who ought to be doing something about the field, women's
studies people tend to be at universities. Maybe we need more Women's
Studies programs at Community Colleges where Women's Studies students
will be in closer proximity to voc tech!

I've gone on long enough.

Liz Homer

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