5 Ways to Engage Girls in CTE 

March 11, 2024

In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

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In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

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In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

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In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come. 

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In 2022, the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Title IX Equal Opportunity in Education Act. This legislation prohibited discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal funds. The most well-known impact has been in womens’ athletics where equitable funding has resulted in significantly higher opportunities for girls to play sports and a far more balanced and representative overall participation in sports across genders. A much lesser known–yet vitally important–component of this critical law bans discrimination in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. 

CTE programs have proliferated across districts in the last several years in a variety of fields. And, despite the Title IX requirement, statistics show that significant gender disparities exist in participation rates across the spectrum of career courses and CTE pathways. 

Understanding Current Gender Disparities in CTE

Most CTE programs fall into two broad categories of focus and skill development and lead to very different outcomes and opportunities for participating students. The first grouping includes a combination of healthcare assistant, cosmetology, and culinary programs. Though building employable skills, these programs often lead to lower-wage jobs with high turnover and little opportunity for career advancement unless additional training is sought. National data shows that females make up an astounding 2/3 of these programs. The second category includes a combination of traditional trades (e.g. plumbing, construction, electrician) and contemporary technology (e.g. engineering, computer sciences) that often lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. These programs are predominantly serving male students, with females only making up a 1/3 of enrollment. An Education Commission of the States article noted these disparities, pointing out that, “Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent), according to an analysis of federal Perkins data.”

Career and Technical Education programs can offer unparalleled opportunities for training and skill development that impact postsecondary professional hiring, earning potential, and livelong ability to make a living wage. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, educators should feel an urgency to ensure female students are not missing out on these powerful and life-changing programs that will open up opportunities for years to come. Use the tips below to ensure that girls are welcomed, encouraged, and supported in meaningful ways in all types of CTE programs. 

Tips for Expanding Opportunities and Fostering Engagement

  1. Track participation in CTE programs to identify disparities. The first step of eliminating barriers to access must be to identify and understand any current trends in disparities in CTE courses and programs in your school or district. Counselors can track enrollment in CTE courses, completion of CTE pathways from start to finish, along with involvement in CTE-related extracurricular opportunities and hone in on any metrics that are out of proportion with the gender makeup of the school community. Counselors might also talk with females in CTE courses to collect qualitative data about what specific obstacles they have encountered or which supports may have been helpful. Looking at data from your specific school or district is the best way to understand the current reality, which programs are working to promote gender diversity, and what shifts are necessary to adequately support and encourage women in CTE. 
  1. Be intentional about introducing female students to CTE programs and careers and supporting them in reaching their goals. Beyond simply welcoming females into these courses and programs, counselors must actively work to encourage female students to participate and create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing. Counselors might offer female-only events where CTE courses and programs are highlighted, invite female students to share their experiences with others, or connect female students taking CTE courses with one another. These types of efforts can create a sense of belonging for students as they try something new in an environment that might otherwise feel unwelcoming or isolating. 
  1. Provide role models. Connecting students to female mentors across a variety of fields can be incredibly impactful to students’ future plans and goals. When a female student meets a female firefighter or a female computer programmer, they can see themselves in those roles and their conception about what is possible shifts. Counselors might make a special effort to invite female professionals in to speak about their careers or help connect female students to female mentors in their field of interest. These seemingly small efforts can truly change the types of careers that students see as options in their future.
  1. Start young! Sharing information with young students about different careers and seeing female representation across a diversity of fields normalizes the idea of these options by the time students reach high school. As part of program development, include connections and channels between CTE programs and middle and elementary schools. Invite high schoolers to share about their CTE experiences to begin getting students excited about the opportunities that are ahead. Encourage younger students to attend CTE events and showcases. If any CTE courses produce marketable goods, make them available for purchase to younger students and their families along with a description about the high school entrepreneurs. All of these efforts create momentum and enthusiasm as students enter high school eager to participate in the opportunities they have learned about over the years.
  1. Connect to local and national organizations doing work to mitigate gender disparities in educational programs and emerging fields. Educators and counselors might find ways to connect female students to organizations that offer field-specific mentors and networking, such as Women in Plumbing and Piping, Women in HVACR, or The National Association of Women in Construction. They might also collaborate with organizations that explicitly seek to advance girls in STEM education, such as Girls Who Code, or those that support females interested in STEM fields, such as those specific to the national laboratories. These support networks can play a major role in sparking interests, fostering passions, and supporting follow through on dreams and goals.

Long-Term Success

Access to and participation in high-quality CTE programs in high school make a pivotal difference in the long-term trajectory for students. These programs set students up for postsecondary success with advanced skills, incomparable experience, and credentials certifying their achievements. In order to equitably serve students, counselors and educators must make sure that female students see themselves in these roles, feel a sense of belonging, and know that their contributions are meaningful. And, more than just the individual students, efforts to expand the reach of CTE programs across genders will benefit the professions and fields, themselves. With added diversity comes more perspectives, new ways to solve problems, and additional critical and creative thinking that will catalyze innovation across industries for years to come.